This New Year’s Eve, while you’re singing “Auld Lang Syne” (Old English for “old long-since”) and drinking champagne (named after the province in France where it is made), perhaps you’ll make a resolution (first practiced in the mid-1800s). When we normally speak of resolution, we usually mean the degree of detail in a photograph or a television set (actually, the word refers to the separation of something into component parts). Modern flat screen TVs that are “1080p” have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels – the more pixels, the more detail and greater resolution. We can also find resolutions to problems.
At this time of year, however, the word takes on a different meaning. We make resolutions, meaning things that we are determined to do (or not do, as the case may be). While this practice of reflection and intention at the start of a new year has been around for over a century, the popular use of the word in this context dates back to Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece:
“Then Love and Fortune be my gods, my guide!
My will is backt with resolution:
Thoughts are but dreams till their effects be tried;
The blackest sin is clear’d with absolution”
So test your resolve and make some resolutions, for the sake of auld lang syne.