Calamity has been described in several dictionaries as a disaster.
But Calamity was used as the “name” of a person. Remember Calamity Jane, the film that starred Doris Day?
Well, there was a real Calamity Jane. Her name was Martha Jane Canary (sometimes spelt Cannary), a frontierswoman and a professional scout. She was also illiterate and an alcoholic.
She was a friend of Wild Bill Hickock and appeared in the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. She was also a fighter of American Indians.
Much of what she said about herself cannot be proven, or she would be on a par with Superman.
She died aged 51 in 1903.
Several versions are given on the origins of calamity. Many dictionaries say of this word “a disaster”.
If we go back far enough, we find that the word comes from the Latin calamitas.
My Macquarie says it refers to great trouble, adversity, misery or a great misfortune or a disaster.
But I like the word from Andrew Bierce, who says of calamity in his 1911 dictionary: “The affairs of life are not of our own ordering; calamities are of two kinds – misfortune to ourselves and good fortune to others”. I don’t know what he meant, but it sounded good.
But the word has been used to refer to crops as well as humans.
Eliezer Edwards in his 1881 dictionary says the word refers to the corn not being able to get out of the stalk. He quotes Lord Byron as saying this.
My big dictionary says: “fraught with or causing calamity, disastrous, distressful, full of distress, affliction or misery”. It also says “damage, disaster, adversity”.
Fancy looking up the word calamity and the dictionary tells you it “causes calamity”.
That’s sometimes the problem with dictionaries.
Calamitous means “in a calamitous manner”, almost as bad.
My big dictionary says of the damage to crops “trouble or misery”.
Shakespeare had a go at it. In Romeo and Juliet he says “thou art wedded to calamitie”.
But in 1586 Thomas Cogan in Haven Health said calamity was a grief of the head, which was a common calamity of students. So, I suppose you could say “I can’t do the HSC because I have a calamity”.
In 1754 Samuel Richardson writing The History of Sir Charles Grangdison said: “I am in calamity, my dear: I would love you if you were in calamity“. I think he means if she were as crazy as him.
Very few words come from calamity. They might include calamize, calamitousness or calamitously. Calamity has been everywhere, in books and businesses.
I wouldn’t like to head a business that says calamity. I don’t know about you.