Legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dies at 87

Originally published at: Legendary psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi dies at 87 | Boing Boing


(He gave the following American English phrase as an approximation of how his surname should be pronounced: “Chicks sent me high.” RIP Professor)


Can confirm: he used to have one of his grad students come out at the beginning of a course or a lecture, etc. and teach everyone in the room how to pronounce his name, so that the audience could concentrate on the discussion at hand instead of running a background script in their head trying to figure it out.

But only one chick: Chick Sent Me High


It can sometimes help to know what the name means.

From what I can see, Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian locative surname, that is, it’s a family name taken from a place. And that place is Czik-szent-Mihalyi, the town of Saint-Michael, in the county of Csik in what was once the Kingdom of Hungary, now Mihăileni in Romania.


Ooh! Ooh! Do mine next? :smiley:

[Sort of kidding–I’ve actually looked into it a few times over the years. Seems to be a place name as well, but I don’t know much more. Possibly from the village of Śniadka Druga. Or at least, that’s the closest spelling I’ve found.]


Glad somebody is well versed in Hungarian.


He achieved the ultimate flow state.


I suspect you’ve basically got it. Polish -cki marks a locative surname (feminine -cka), so Śniadecki means “Of Śniadka”, and your sister would be Śniadecka. Pronounced something like /ɕnja.tet͡ɕ.ki/ “Shnya-detch-ki” (find an actual Polish person for actual pronunciation).

Which village of Śniadka is a matter for following the genealogy.

Śniadka is itself a diminutive of śniady, which is an adjective meaning “tawny, swarthy”, from a Proto-Slavic root meaning “brown”, itself probably derived from a word meaning “copper”.


I was thinking


With all sincerity: thank you. I’m adding this to my “research” (it’s more like a loose hobby).

There’s actually someone in my extended family doing extensive genealogy research, but I’m not sure they’ve traced the name origin all the way back. And the linguistic root information is especially interesting to me. Again, my thanks.


That struck me because, as a child in the war, I’d seen something drastically wrong with how adults—the grown-ups I trusted—organized their thinking.

As a person amidst QAnon / Trumpism / Stop The Steal / GOP Thuggery, thinking:
“Gee, because adults organize their thinking so much drastically better nowadays.”

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Truly a great loss. His work is fantastic


Thank you for posting this. I had no idea this man existed or that he was the progenitor of “flow”. Now I know! I watched the TED talk and will re-watch it with my kids to hopefully get them trying to get in a flow state instead of complaining of boredom.


That’s a remarkably good approximation, though it’s missing an extra “ee” at the end (from the i). In particular it is indeed chick not cheek. In both names the l in ly is silent, and the stress is on the first syllable (accent marks don’t denote stress).

EDIT: there is an accent (and a stress!) on the first vowel in Csíkszentmihályi, making it cheek not chick. Oops.


The solitary unaccented “c” is pronounced /t͡s/ (except in combinations “cz” and “ci”), so I think the proper phonetic notation would be /ɕɲaˈdet͡s.ki/ “Shnya-DETS-ki”. (I’m not Polish, but I am learning the language, and I have heard the name spoken by native Polish speakers. Also, brothers Jan and Jęndrzej Śniadecki were notable scholars in my alma mater.)

And while -ski/-cki was originally the suffix for locative surnames (mainly for landed nobility), at some point (this article says 16th century) it became basically the default identifier of Polish family names and started to be applied in all sorts of cases - for profession-based surnames, for names coming from other languages whose owners wished to appear more Polish, etc. So the specific etymology might not lead to any particular locality. Perhaps one of @Mark_Sniadecki’s ancestors was just notably swarthy.


That’s kind of awesome. I’d like to go out as “chicks sent me high”, too. :smiley:

(Fembots from Austin Powers)

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