For some unknown reason, I used the word “wicked” somewhat excessively today, specifically in the context of cold. “It was wicked cold,” I said frequently. (It was, both today and Saturday, which were the days under discussion.) This got me to thinking about the word wicked, since it has several official meanings, some of which are opposites.
According to Merriam-Webster.com, there are four definitions of wicked. The first is the expected definition, meaning evil. The second and third are related to this, but not specifically related to morality. One is “fierce” or “marked by mischief.” The other is “unpleasant” or causing distress. (That would be the wicked cold of South Dakota in January.) All of these are typically bad.
It’s the fourth definition that has some room for the interpretation and leaves the possibility for a positive spin on wicked. The exact definition is “going beyond reasonable or predictable limits” which could be good or bad. This would be the “wicked” of admiring fans of extreme sports or impressed young men in British movies.
As I think about it, the cold today was “beyond reasonable limits” and “evil,” at least in my opinion. Maybe those definitions aren’t too far different, after all.
And apparently it makes me sound like I’m from Canada.