I actually first looked at the etymology of motivation back in 2012, but…that’s been a long time ago, LOL. And since summers can be a weird time of either little motivation or super-charged motivation, I figured it was a great time to revisit.
Did you know that motivation wasn’t in use until 1873? Pretty late! And even then, it was only used in a literal, physical sense of “causing to move toward action.” The sense of “inner or social stimulus” didn’t come into play until 1904.
I discovered this back in 2011 when writing A Heart’s Revolution (previously known as Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland) and was baffled for a good long minute. My character was claiming that his friend would question his motivations. But if he couldn’t question his “motivations” in 1783, then what was he questioning?
Then I had a “duh” moment–he would be questioning his motives. “Motive” carried that very meaning since the 15th century. Which rather begs the question of why we ever thought we had to add that “-ation” ending to it, doesn’t it?
Which brings me back to one of my favorite quotations–I believe this is from Pascal, though I’d have to look through my old notes to make sure, so if I’m wrong, please correct me. I love this one because it’s basically saying “Don’t be pretentious, dude.” So a fun one to start off our new year . . .
“Think with deep motives–but talk like an ordinary person.”