1. Biology .
a. the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some remote ancestor that have been absent in intervening generations.
b. an individual embodying such a reversion.
2. a reversion to an earlier type; throwback.
Someone recently sent me an e-mail with this ‘word of the day” He knows I have a panache for new words in order to increase my lexicon so I can sound clever at parties and be generally irritating. He thought I would find atavism particularly intriguing and he is correct, for I am quite fond and very proud of my ancestral heritage.
My genetic stock consists of 50% English, 25% Canadian (German really but from Ontario, eh) and 25% Dutch. My grandparents and parents did not see themselves as anything but Midwest Americans. As a boy I thought this epitomized dullness. I was quite happy to identify with my Anglo-Saxon/Germanic roots and emulate my ancestors as if I were fresh off the boat.
Although twelve generations separate me from my paternal English roots – and thirteen on Mother’s side – I am pleased as punch to be English. Having a nanny as a lad further boosted my English pride.
Assets < Thumping good history, the world’s best literature which includes my heartthrobs Dickens, William Shakespeare, Monty Python, and Kate Bush.
How can I not be proud?
I am also quite proud of my maple syrup blood type, which bubbles up each summer when I return to Ontario for my annual holiday. The ‘oo’ in my voice (in lieu of ‘ou’) gets a boost as soon as I cross over the border. I would like to live/retire to Canada.
Assets < Socialism, Stratford/Shaw Festivals, Loreena McKennitt, and Tim Horton’s.
Although the Dutch element in me is the least percentage and the most distant (maternal grandmother was a Timmerman), I am also proud of my Dutch blood. What a lovely country. Again I can be a subject of a monarch (I am positively wasted in the States).
Assets < Edam cheese, Caro Emerald, and Snert - wonderbaarlijk!
But the true atavism in my life is the knowledge my English/Dutch/German roots go back even further to the Celts and (oh joy!) the Vikings. It all bubbles up every Samhain.
What else explains my love for donning horns and bellowing like a bezerker?