If you won the lottery, you’d more than likely be ecstatic. “Ecstatic”, however, is a fairly bland word—it doesn’t really describe the way you’d behave, how you’d act if you were suddenly ridiculously, absurdly rich. You’d probably tell people about it. Certainly, you’d do something active with the money—that is, you wouldn’t just shrug and go home and put it aside. You’d probably splurge a bit, or invest, or do both. Whatever the case, between running around celebrating your newfound wealth and obliging your consumerist upbringing by spending it as fast as you could, it would be safe to say that you would be ebullient (ih’bool’yunt).
Ebullience (being ebullient) is a sort of excessive excitement and activity. It’s not just activity, nor is it just being happy about something. An airport is a very busy place, but the activity there is coordinated and planned out. Two people who fall madly in love are likely happy when they see one another, but not in an overflowing or dramatic manner. Ebullience is an amalgam of emotional hyperactivity and great activity. The word’s Latin origins actually refer to something bubbling up or boiling over. Thus, you could say that a pan left unattended on the stove, if it boils over, is being ebullient.
Because—regrettably—it is not likely that you will win the lottery, we’ll look for other circumstances where you may encounter ebullient behavior.
The most common is probably a bar or nightclub, especially as the night progresses. As people get drunker and the music gets louder, the boiling energy and relatively out-of-control atmosphere tends to become more intense. The people are ebullient. Another common example is at major sporting events, especially if the score is close. As the game progresses, tension grows in the crowd—just as heat increases gradually in that pan on the stove. Finally, when one team wins, the fans erupt with excitement and activity (and the occasional stampede). This is ebullient behavior.
Of human beings, ebullience can be either good or bad. The stampeding crowd at a football game may end up trampling people to death. The rowdy nightclub patrons may get impose a sense of claustrophobia on newcomers or the timid, and it is certainly in such environs that pocket-pickers and others who are up to no good take the most advantage of the distraction and excitement. Many people do not enjoy an ebullient atmosphere if they’re out on their own, as it tends to be a bit overwhelming. And, of course, the general mob mentality that has been observed of humans is certainly an instance where ebullient behavior goes awry.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs. Mark is Jet Fuel Review’s prose editor. He is an Aviation major, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer. Mark is a junior and works a few hours a week as a tutor in the Writing Center.