Language Brain-freeze: Resilience vs. Resiliency

Yesterday, my mind became totally befuddled while trying to distinguish between resilience and resiliency. I know at least one of them refers to the ability to bounce back from misfortune, but both sound right…

I googled and quickly found a few articles tackling the same question. Grammarist says they’re different forms of the same word — resilience just became much more popular more recently. Here’s the ngram that graphs usage of each word in over 5 million American texts published between 1800 and 2000.


I can’t remember what I’ve been using up till now…and I want to say “Okay, let’s just stick with resilience” from now on…but I can totally imagine circumstances where “resiliency” might just sound better/more correct. Maybe that’s why the word is still alive? In fact, I’ve been following a lot of writing on resilient cities (a.k.a. urban areas preparing themselves for recovery from natural disasters, etc.) and it seems the two words are used frequently and interchangeably in that context. But to me, “Chief Resilience Officer” (which plenty of cities are hiring these days) rolls off the tongue better than “Chief Resiliency Officer”, while “rebuilding and resiliency programs” feels a bit more appropriate. One thing’s for sure: I will be seeing both words everywhere now.

A few photos from when I visited a tea house in Chengdu in 2011. The tea cup shown on right is 盖碗 (gàiwǎn), which means “lidded bowl” — it’s a special way of brewing and consuming tea.

Anyways, this all came up after I read a neat little story on how tea houses in Chengdu, China (my hometown!) help build cultural continuity — the author argues this stability of sorts is in fact a prime example of urban resilience. The people of Chengdu know what came before them and know how they’ll adapt to the future — which is to say they know when to drink, how to pour, and with whom they shall enjoy a delightful chitchatty tea hour.

…There is not a home in Chengdu, in which an older man lives, that does not have a box of cheap Sichuan green tea and a mug so brown from years of use that it must be carcinogenic by this point.

(via Next City)

I know those brown mugs very well. 


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