Spirit of

Posted by ESC on February 12, 2002

In Reply to: To do "in the spirit of the chase" posted by The Fallen on February 11, 2002

: : I'm a Mexican pursuing a better understanding of english. I found this phrase in a recent article and I would love to find out if my interpretation was correct. After a whole day of research, my best try is "to do something with the best intention" either mistakenly or correctly. Any expert opinion?

: : Sincere Thanks,
: : Pepe
: : P.S.: Sorry if it's a too naive question

: Not at all. It's a good question, and I think you'll find a number of people giving you a variety of slightly differing answers. English is like that sometimes - it can be difficult to give an exact meaning to an expression or idiom.

: So... to do something "in the spirit of the chase". It's clearly an image from the world of hunting, and to me, it means to do something where it's the attempt that is all important, and not the result - where the enjoyment is gained through the competition. Related phrases are "the thrill of the chase" and "it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts."

: Hope this helps.

I was looking for information on another inquiry (see Platform, planks) and noticed an long entry on "spirit of" in Safire's New Political Dictionary by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993). In this sense it means "high ideals" or goals.

SPIRIT OF - "The aura of hope surrounding summit meetings, born of the chance that reasonable men can lessen the threat of war. 'The Spirit of '76' was a favorite name for newspapers just after the American Revolution. On September 13, 1808, a Richmond, Virginia, journal was issued under that name.In its international relations sense, 'spirit of' was originated (in July) by President Eisenhower at the Geneva Conference of 1955.By August the word had caught on enough for him to title a speech to the American Bar Association 'The Spirit of Geneva,' making this point: 'Whether or not such a spirit as this will thrive through the combined intelligence and understanding of men, or will shrivel in the greed and ruthlessness of some, is for the future to tell. But one thing is certain. This spirit and the goals we seek could never have been achieved by violence or when men and nations confronted each other with hearts filled with fear and hatred. At Geneva we strove to help establish this spirit'.(Later British Foreign Minister Harold Macmillan said) 'The Geneva spirit if it is anything is an inward spirit. Its light is not bright today. It burns low. But it burns'." Safire says the phrase "spirit of" was overused over the years and the meaning changed "from hope to derision, or at least suspicion and more recently back to hope."