Jingoism is defined as extreme chauvinism or nationalism, usually in the form of an aggressive foreign policy. It originates from the root word Jingo. Before 1878, the phrase “by Jingo” was used in as a euphemism for Jesus, which originated from a magician’s gibberish presto-jingo (for example, to cast a spell) in the 1660s. In 1878, the word acquired a new meaning, when it was used in the chorus of a music-hall song by G. W. Hunt:
We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do
We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too
We've fought the Bear before, and while we're Britons true
The Russians shall not have Constantinople.
The message that the song tried to express was the support of aggressive British policy towards Russia. This song was written at the time of the Russo-Turkish war, when there was much international tension. Soon, the term Jingo became used to describe someone that is excessively patriotic, and jingoism was used to describe this phenomenon in general. An early usage of this word was by Theodore Roosevelt, who when accused of jingoism said: “There is much talk about 'jingoism'. If by 'jingoism' they mean a policy in pursuance of which Americans will with resolution and common sense insist upon our rights being respected by foreign powers, then we are 'jingoes'.”
The word jingoism is curious in that it can be used in a positive or negative manner when describing something. Today, extreme patriotism is more looked down upon than in the past. Nationalism, or patriotism, is the love and devotion for one’s country. This is a positive emotion, and it is important to have a love of one’s origin. Being patriotic is important, because where you live, your culture and society, is a significant part of who you are.
However, too much passion for one’s country, or jingoism, can lead to the clouding of judgement. It can lead to conflicts, needless acts of violence, or even needless war. Terry Pratchett explores this idea in his book entitled Jingo, where two great powers wage war over a small, largely useless island. Being patriotic is something most people experience to a degree, but it is important to know the danger of jingoism.
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"Jingoism." Oxford English Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2012. <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/101344>.