What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

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Don’t worry, my knowledge of Shakespeare runs to just two quotes (both from Romeo and Juliet). David Alexander posted recently about the origins of the word ‘Resilience’, however, today I caught a blog post from Durham IHRR and it got me to thinking…does it matter what we call what we do?

In the office we often have conversations about what ‘Resilience’ means. I think we’ve finalled settled on a definition, based on the UK Civil Protection Lexicon, which includes the ability to detect, prevent, handle and recover from disruptive challenges. Whether this is my preferred definition or not isn’t so important (I’d actually have prefered something more reflective of the Latin eymological root of the word resilire “to rebound, recoil”).

I found the Google Ngram graph for ‘resilience’ interesting, although the scale of the graph probably runs the risk of us reading too much into the patterns. The period of growth since the 1960’s is particularly interesting and probably reflects the term being used by a wider range of fields (ecology, psychology, climate science etc).

Resilience 1800-2008 Google Ngram

Time Magaine called it the buzzword of 2013, so I took to Google Trends to see if there were any more recent pattens. Whilst there is a definate upward trend, to me it’s still inconclusive.

But the actual issue here, is does it matter? Call it resilience, call it Emergency Planning, call it Disaster Management, and the rose still smells the same, even if it doesn’t smell sweet.

I’ve always found definitions restrictive. Perhaps embracing the malleability and imprecision of the definitions could be a good thing? After all, in the event of an emergency/disaster/crisis/catastrophe/act of god, do we, as individuals or communities really care about definitions?

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