1 the quality of exceeding the appropriate limits of decorum or probability or truth; "we were surprised by the extravagance of his description" [syn: extravagancy]
Etymologyfrom medieval Latin: extra + vagari (to wander).
- Japanese: 贅沢 (ぜいたく, zeitaku)
- Dutch: buitensporigheid
- This page refers to eccentricity in behavior and popular usage. For other uses, see eccentricity (disambiguation).
In popular usage, eccentricity refers to unusual or odd behavior on the part of an individual. This behavior would typically be perceived as unusual or unnecessary, without being demonstrably maladaptive. Eccentricity is contrasted with "normal" behavior, the nearly universal means by which individuals in society solve given problems and pursue certain priorities in everyday life. For people who consistently display benignly eccentric behavior, there is a label: "eccentrics".
Depictions of eccentricity
Eccentricity is often associated with genius, giftedness, or creativity. The individual's eccentric behavior is perceived to be the outward expression of his or her unique intelligence or creative impulse. In this vein, the eccentric's habits are incomprehensible not because they are illogical or the result of madness, but because they stem from a mind so original that it cannot be conformed to societal norms. In this vein, Edith Sitwell wrote:
- Eccentricity is not, as some would believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.
Comparison to the norm
A person who is simply in a "fish out of water" situation is not, by the strictest definition, an eccentric since, presumably, he or she may be ordinary by the conventions of his or her native environment.
Eccentrics may or may not comprehend the standards for normal behavior in their culture. They are simply unconcerned by society's disapproval of their habits or beliefs. Many of history's most brilliant minds have displayed many unusual behaviors and habits.
Some eccentrics are cranks, rather than geniuses. Eccentric behavior is often considered whimsical or quirky, although it can also be strange and disturbing. Many individuals previously considered to be merely eccentric, such as aerospace engineer and pilot Howard Hughes, have recently been retrospectively-diagnosed as actually suffering from mental illness (obsessive compulsive disorder in Hughes' case). Probably the best example would be Nikola Tesla. Another famous eccentric was renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, who in addition to being widely recognized as a genius, was also known to pick up and smoke discarded cigarette butts on the street, pilot his sailboat on windless days ("for the challenge"), and lecture his 8-year-old nephew on physics (including a 2-hour exposition on the fascinating Newtonian properties of soap bubbles).
Other people may have eccentric taste in clothes, or have eccentric hobbies or collections which they pursue with great vigour. They may have a pedantic and precise manner of speaking, intermingled with inventive wordplay.
Behavioral eccentricities have often been classically associated with psychological profiles indicating overcompensation, insecurities, unresolved childhood issues, involuntary celibacy and other sexual issues, unrequited love, heartbreak, and other romantic issues, repressed feelings, social ineptness, monomania, or a variety of other influences, even if the person would not necessarily be classified as insane. Some accepted psychological profiles that are commonly attributed to eccentrics are the Oedipus complex (a primal desire on the part of a young male to compete with his father for his mother's love and affection), Napoleon complex (colloquial term used to describe a type of inferiority complex suffered by people who are short), Peter Pan Syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and autism spectrum disorders, most notably Asperger syndrome. Eccentric behavior has also been attributed to drug use.
Many individuals may even manifest eccentricities consciously and deliberately, in an attempt to differentiate themselves from societal norms or enhance a sense of inimitable identity; given the overwhelmingly positive stereotypes (at least in pop culture and especially with fictional characters) often associated with eccentricity, detailed above, it would seem only natural that certain individuals would seek to be associated with this sort of character type. However, this is not always successful and the individual in question may simply be dismissed by others as just seeking attention.
Extravagance is a kind of eccentricity, related to abundance and wastefulness; refer to description in hyperbole.
extravagance in Danish: Excentricitet (opførsel)
extravagance in German: Exzentriker
extravagance in Dutch: Excentriciteit (gedrag)
extravagance in Japanese: 奇人
extravagance in Polish: Ekscentryzm
extravagance in Portuguese: Excentricidade (comportamento)
extravagance in Russian: Экстравагантность
extravagance in Simple English: Eccentricity
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