11 Jun /15


It’s no secret that we all have bad habits, but not all bad habits are the same. On one hand, instances of bad manners, bad etiquette, and impoliteness are often considered very minor, and are overlooked assuming that someone hasn’t been taught correctly. Yet the variety of habits that are often defined by today’s word are considerably stronger as well as more taboo. Many of life’s naughty pleasures in which we knowingly partake are referred to as today’s word – vice.

Originating in English around the 1300’s, the term comes from the Latin vitium, meaning, in a moral and physical sense, a defect or imperfection, via the Old French vice, which was adapted to mean fault or failing. Outside of a basic definition though, it’s important to understand what makes a vice: considering the value system of any religion, culture, of society, a vice (being thought of as negative) is the opposite of a virtue (being thought of a positive).

Without getting into anything too devious or worthy of censorship, let’s look at what are often considered to be two of the modern day’s most prevalent vices – smoking and drinking alcohol. Smoking cigarettes, for example, never used to be considered a vice, especially in previous decades, when a larger minority or even a majority of adults smoked. However, as people have become more health conscious and aware of the risks of long-term smoking, the number of smokers have diminished- from 27.4% of adults in the UK in 1999 to 18.8% in 2014- thus causing smoking to now be considered a vice. As for alcohol, it has never really been considered too severe of a vice, research is showing that, although roughly half of all adults in the UK are looking to lessen their alcohol consumption, alcohol sales are actually increasing.

As with many other words, the meaning and usage of the word vice has broadened. Primarily used in a religious connotation, we can see one of the first known usages in the Ayenbite of Inwyt, a confessional prose work written in 1340, it is mention stating that, “For pride make of alms sin, and of virtues vices.” Moving into the 1700’s and released after his death, Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, writes in his History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England that, “Nor [to] speak of Persons otherwise, than as the mention of their Virtues or Vices is essential to the work in hand,” showing that the word has taken a more personal,individual meaning that is not as closely tied to religion. Finally, putting it into a modern perspective whilst adding some tongue-in-cheek humour, steadfast Tory Winston Churchill once commented on Labour politician Stafford Cripps, saying that, “He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

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