Certain words: ambivert

The day called for 140 miles by car, to start in the dark, with fog. Fortunately, I had my ipod loaded. First up? Book reviews, from NPR.

These are routinely worthwhile, and I typically have to fumble with a pen and notebook while listening (so thankful for cruise control at such times. And coffee mugs with tight lids.). One in particular caught my attention–Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Introversion is finally getting the attention it deserves (here’s another example from Adam McHugh)–which may well threaten introverts–but Ms. Cain is careful not to privilege introverts over extroverts. Rather, she seeks to redress the imbalance, suggesting that introverts have contributions to make in a culture that has tended to lean the other way. Her interviewer teased out some differences, and then, in closing, offered ways listeners could determine whether they were introverts, or extroverts, or ambiverts. Ambiverts? Turns out, that if you’re in ‘the middle’ of the continuum that seeks to measure preference, that’s you. Ambivert.

We know ‘ambidextrous’–the word for an ability to use both hands equally well. And ‘ambivalent’ is to be divided between two options (‘wishy-washy’ is the negative slant here, but not always an accurate description). And now, not a new word, but one worth hearing: ambivert.

I rather like the inclusivity–the hopefulness–of ‘ambivert’. I want to keep this word with me, too, especially as I’m inclined to fall solidly on one side of the line. Ambivert is a good reminder that sometimes staking out territory–or having a particular characteristic foisted on oneself by others–is not always necessary, or of value.

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