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Archive for February 5th, 2022

MacGyverism

Posted by Admin on February 5, 2022

It wasn’t very difficult to track down the meaning or history of the word MacGyverism mostly because it was a straight road to where you might think it would lead. According to the Collins Dictionary, MacGyverism refers to any person who uses the resources at hand to successfully resolve a situation in which they find themselves.

Angus MacGyver, played by American actor Richard Dean Anderson, always found ingenious ways to get out of what seemed to be impossible situations from 29 September 1985 through to 21 May 1992 on the U.S. television show MacGyver. He was a fictional secret agent and a strong ally to social and environmental causes who relied on the practical application of scientific principles and on-the-spot inventiveness using everyday items at his immediate disposal.

To most fictional characters in the series as well as viewers watching the show, MacGyver used random and useless pieces, tying them together to create an unexpected and effective way to counteract inevitable danger certain to spell his demise.

The items he used most often were his Swiss Army knife, a roll of duct tape (which he conveniently kept in his back pocket and flattened so it would fit without creating bulk), a sturdy plastic ID card, a Timex watch, strike-anywhere matches, paper clips, chewing gum, and a flashlight. The character was a multilinguist fluent in English, Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and he know International maritime signal flags as well as Morse code.

All this was possible for MacGyver in light of the fact his character was written as having a genius intellect and a penchant for improvisation and adaptability.

The term MacGyverism is derived from the television character and his amazing ability to overcome dangerous situations most others would be unable to survive.

On 19 October 2006, Hudson Street Press published “What Would MacGyver Do? True Stories of Improvised Genius in Everyday Life” by Brandon Vaughan. The book, according to the blurb, was inspired by the fictional character Angus MacGyver and included this passage:

Inspired by television’s Angus MacGyver (played by Richard Dean Anderson), a secret agent who relied on his brains and scientific prowess – not to mention duct tape and a Swiss Army knife to save the day, the “MacGyverisms” recounted range from the concrete (using Chex Mix to provide traction in an icy parking lot) to the intangible (saving a relationship with the perfect turn of phrase).

The term has also led to the verbs “to MacGyver” and “MacGyverize.” In fact, “to MacGyver” was courtesy of Stephen Lunch on 1 August 1997 in his article published in the Orange County Register.

To fix something without benefit of tools or a manual is called “to MacGyver” a solution after the television show in which Richard Dean Anderson disarmed nuclear bombs with paper clips.

In an interview with MacGyver producer and writer Stephen Downing for the Christian Science Monitor published on 24 December 1987, David R. Francis wrote this:

“[MacGyver] relies on his ingenuity and knowledge, rather than violence, to complete dangerous missions. [Downing] calls the use of science techniques as “MacGyverisms.”

It sounds to Idiomation that those who enjoyed the television series took to MacGyverizing because they liked what the main character stood for and how he didn’t have to rely on violence to get himself out of scrapes.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1: Stephen Downing retired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 1980 after more than 20 years of service. He rose to the title of Captain of Detectives, and he established homicide investigation techniques that continue to be used to this day. He was a Commanding Officer of the Juvenile Division and then the Commanding Officer of the Southwest Area where he designed and implemented the first functionally integrated police operation in law enforcement dealing with gang activity.

INTERESTING SIDE SIDE NOTE 1: Stephen Downing’s son, Michael P. Downing has also served as an LAPD Deputy Chief, and served as the Commanding Officer of Counter-Terrorism and Special Operations, becoming the interim Chief of Police after Chief William J. Bratton stepped down in 2009.

However, it was a year earlier in 1986, in the second-season episode 3 titled, “Twice Stung” that the character of Joanne Remmings (played by Pamela Bowen) used the term. Later on in an episode of “Stargate SG-1” the character of Samantha Carter (played by Amanda Tapping) used the term.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2: Richard Dean Anderson played the role of Colonel Jack O’Neill in “Stargate SG-1” which aired on 27 July 1997. The series was a spin-off from the movie “Stargate.”

There was a MacGyver reboot (23 September 2016 to 30 April 2021) that ran for four seasons which starred American actor, model, and producer Lucas Till in the role of Angus MacGyver. As you can well imagine, the MacGyverisms continued.

And so Idiomation has pegged the term to 1986 and episode 3 of MacGyver as the source of the term. The next time someone says you’re guilty of a MacGyverism, smile. You’re being compared to a genius-level who adapts well to unexpected situations.

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