Ever had one of those times you go to visit a friend in the hospital to cheer them up and they end up lifting your spirits too? Thanks David and Elise, you two are treasures!
My husband and I visited with friends recently and I told the story of a dog who acts like a prima donna. But the dog is a ‘he’, so suddenly I was struck by the fact that I could not think of the proper term for the male equivalent of a prima donna, diva, or princess. This prompted an interesting discussion.
You probably know the etymology of those terms. But just in case you have forgotten, let me refresh your memory. Dating back to the 1600’s, the term prima donna means ‘first lady’ in Italian – referring to the leading lady in an opera. Due to their position and talent, these ladies were entitled to certain rights such as private dressing rooms and special attention from the director and composer. Diva means a woman who is extremely talented musically (also originating in the field of opera). Over time, both terms have taken on a more unpleasant meaning. Today a prima donna or diva is a woman who is selfish, egotistical and temperamental. In fact, this meaning has become so common that the terms are rarely used in the opera world today.
But let’s get back to my dilemma of what term to use to describe the dog. Certainly, I could use the male forms ‘primo uomo’ or ‘divo’ or even ‘prince’. But those terms do not carry the modern day cultural significance of the feminine versions. In fact, they have maintained their literal meaning of the leading man in an opera or the male heir to a throne. So it would not convey my meaning to say this dog, “Fred” (his name is changed to protect the innocent) was a primo uomo. In fact, it would not make any sense.
My research revealed that even when referring to a male, you are to use the terms prima donna or diva if your intent is to say they are arrogant, selfish and temperamental. Apparently there are not enough men in this category to get their own terms so they have to borrow ours. So what does that say about women? We have multiple terms to describe such people!
Food for thought after our friendly discussion yesterday: What causes someone to become a prima donna? Isn’t it usually a problem of discontentment? In light of this thought, I consider Philippians 4:11-12 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry.” We can be hungry for a lot of things including attention and special treatment. Paul’s letter to the Philippians serves as a reminder to us as well. May our lives reflect the contentment that comes with knowing God. And may others be drawn to Him through the lack of prima donnas in our midst!