Word of the Month: Enough

David Zapatka

Have you had enough? How much is enough? Enough of what? Enough stuff? Enough politics? Enough religion? Enough of some person? Enough of some activity? What does enough really mean?

Reader and sister, Judy Haberstroh, says, “I came across this excerpt and thought the word “enough” may be a good one for your column. This is one of those words that is ambiguous as its meaning can be so different to individuals and interpreted very differently depending on one’s life experiences of what is important to them.”

This passage is from the book The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed and happiness, by Morgan Housel.

“John Bogel, the Vanguard founder who passed away in 2019, once told a story about money that highlights something we don’t think about enough:

At a party by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have…enough.’

Enough. I was stunned by the simple eloquence of that word—stunned for two reasons: first, because I have been given so much in my own life and, second, because Joseph Heller couldn’t have been more accurate. For a critical element of our society, including many of the wealthiest and most powerful among us, there seems to be no limit today on what enough entails.”

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Origin and Etymology: Middle English enogh, Old English genōh; cognate with German genug, Gothic ganohs, Old Norse nōgr; akin to Old English geneah it suffices, Sanskrit naśati (he) reaches.

First Used: before 900.

Enough in the news and in books:

Most of the time, of course, there’s not enough actual news to fill the time slots for a 24-hour cable news network. — Mark Antonio Wright, National Review, “‘How Do I Ask for an Extension on a Blown Deadline?’,” 25 Apr. 2021.

The sailors sometimes use it to fry their meat, for want of butter, and find it agreeable enough.—The Life and Most Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner (1801), Daniel Defoe.

Just corporeal enough to attest humanity, yet sufficiently transparent to let the celestial origin shine through.—Pearls of Thought, Maturin M. Ballou.

Please submit any thoughts on this month’s column or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to [email protected]