Simpatico is an elegant word with a great pedigree: Greek, Latin, Italian, and Spanish.
As is the case when a word runs through the Anglification and simplification process, simpatico means sympathy. When you delve deeper into the meaning of the word, it implies caring on a soul-deep and selfless plane. It is a special level of understanding or expression of compassion.
However, as is often the case with words when they are hijacked by or incorporated into the vocabulary of the masses, the people devolve perfectly good words into lazy-speak. They either reduce the usage and meaning of any given word to conform to their idea of what it should mean or twist the word into something totally different from its original meaning.
An example of such a vernacular change in meaning is the word “bomb”. The meaning most often attributed to this word is an explosive device. However, a bomb can also refer to a failed movie or play; in sports, it is a forward pass, and it is a slang term meaning “cool” or “awesome.”
If someone says you are simpatico, he or she is either claiming “I’m so superior to everyone else that I use cool sounding words” or they are offering a backhanded acceptance of someone’s existence. It is a complimentary crumb. In essence, the superior creature is willing to recognize someone because he or she has managed to fit into a certain group and learned to make nice in the workplace or social sandbox.
But just because someone decides you fit in with a group, does not mean the accepted person possesses the qualities that are the very foundation of the word “simpatico.”
For example, if someone tells you their troubles and you mouth empty platitudes, such as “I’m sorry” or “You poor, dear,” does not necessarily make you a compassionate human being. But if you reach out and envelope the troubled or suffering person in a spontaneous hug, then you are offering genuine warmth and showing you care without the spewage of empty words.
Of course, a hug and a big sloppy kiss are not recommended if the person just shared that he or she has Ebola, the flu or some other contagious affliction. At such unfortunate tidings, one’s self-preservation mechanism should turn on. Giving into the urge to offer an overt expression of compassion could result in personal misery.
If you doubt that word usage often strains the outer limits of original intent, here are excerpts from two songs titled “simpatico.”
The first is “Simpatico” by Maysa:
“Oh, I know you can understand why
You love the way my mind thinks
It’s because we’re incredibly in synch…
Suddenly as lovely as your eyes, there’s no surprise
You simply mesmerize me
(the) heavens above they’ve truly shine upon your face
We’re, we’re in simpatico
We’re in simpatico.”
The second example is Dean Martin’s version “Sympatico”:
“Your eyes are simpatico
Tonight they have told me
That you’ll be simpatico
To me alone…
When do you what you do
You’re so sympathetic
Which means you’re simpatico
Which means I’m in heaven…”
The simpatico and understanding the two songs describe have little to do with compassion or kindness. They have more to do with heat and some serious physical exertion rather than connecting on an ethereal or non-physical level.
Maysa’s version of “Simpatico” has a nice thumping beat, conjuring visions of toasty encounters of the very friendly kind.
While Dean Martin’s “Sympatico” is a ballroom worthy number with a light Latin touch, but the intent of the lyrics and his delivery is clearly that of simmering to full-blown passion.
Neither version makes the listener think of altruistic feelings. In other words, they are not singing about Mother Teresa-type sympathy and unselfishness.
In fact, the true meaning of the word “simpatico” rarely exists in the hearts and minds of the masses. No matter what their lips flap at you, most people have the inner sensitivity of a petrified log.