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Pronoia is the suspicion that the universe is a conspiracy on your behalf, the opposite of the popular sense of paranoia. It seems to have been invented by the sociologist Fred Goldner in an article in Social Problems in 1982, in which he defined it as “the delusion that others think well of one”, the unreasoning belief that your superiors think you are indispensable, that your colleagues adore you, and that you are doing brilliantly in your work. He was warning against the dangers of the rose-tinted view, in which an over-positive view of oneself and the world around one can lead to fatal mistakes. It was later taken up by the short-lived group called the ZIPPies (the Zen Inspired Pronoia Pagans) invented by a London club promoter named Fraser Clark. The word has a small continuing niche, though its adjective pronoid is less common.

Looking at these kids, it doesn’t require my usual pronoia to think that I’m glimpsing the future of this place.

Wired, Jan. 1999

She introduced the CEOs to the flip side of paranoia: “pronoia” — the idea that everyone is not out to get you, but that they are out to love you, or at least to appreciate you, if you reciprocate. According to the new Darwinism, only the pronoid survive — in fact, only the pronoid endure and flourish.

Fast Company, Nov. 1999

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 23 Sep. 2000
Last updated: 13 Nov. 2004

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-pro5.htm
Last modified: 13 November 2004.