the sign of the four

I was thinking about the word “melancholy” today. The word derives from “black” (think: “melanoma”) and bile (think: “cholic”). This reminded me about the four humors, which apparently I learned in an English class in college in reference to Alexander Pope (he’s the first person who pops into my head, anyway).

the four temperament types (or four humors):

–based on a theory of Hippocrates who believed certain moods and behaviors were influenced by body fluids (blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm). Yes, it sounds crazy, but he really wasn’t that far off since current theory/reality attributes these to brain chemicals and hormones.

  • sanguine: blood, night, spring, air “A person who is sanguine is generally light-hearted, funloving, a people person, loves to entertain, spontaneous, leader abilities, and confident. However they can be arrogant, cocky, and indulgent.”
  • choleric: yellow bile, summer, fire “A person who is choleric is a doer. They have a lot of ambition, energy, and passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types.”
  • melancholic: black bile, autumn, earth “a person who is a thoughtful ponderer has a melancholic disposition. Often very kind and considerate, melancholics can be highly creative – as in poetry and art – but also can become overly pre-occupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world, thus becoming depressed.”
  • phlegmatic: phlegm, winter, water “While phlegmatics are generally self-content and kind, their shy personality can often inhibit enthusiasm in others and make themselves lazy and resistant to change. They are very consistent, relaxed, rational, curious, and observant”

So it’s somewhere between the Myer-Briggs personality test and astrology, but hey, we humans are not an exact science. I say: Keep theorizing.

[continued speculation in “characters and types“]

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