volatile = given to any changes in mood, into elevated or subdued?

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siares

Senior Member
Slovak
Dear all,
following recent discussion on imprecise definition of volatile (temperament) as explosive which I thought was the only usage, I'd like to check whether I can use it as 'changing' into a depressed state:
- It seems John has got over the trauma of being knifed.
- No, he's still very volatile. In the most exciting moment of football match yesterday he suddenly stopped watching and cheering, his eyes glazed over and he became very quiet and depressed. 10 minutes after he was back to normal.

Thank you.
 
  • siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    How interesting! I thought mercurial was negative. The only context I have heard it in: I don't like scorpios, they are mercurial.
    But even mood swings and moody sound negative to me, as if someone has not got a serious reason to be in a bad mood, but is just being a drama queen.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "Mercurial" usually describes a personality or character rather than an emotional state. I think "prone to mood swings" is fine in this context. My earlier suggestion ("emotionally labile") would also work, but it may sound too clinical.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Thanks, The Newt. Even if it is clinical, I like emotionally labile the best, I think it fits better with the real difficulty coping as in example in OP.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    "Mercurial" usually describes a personality or character rather than an emotional state. I think "prone to mood swings" is fine in this context. My earlier suggestion ("emotionally labile") would also work, but it may sound too clinical.
    I don't think it is limited to character or personality. Here are a few definitions:

    Mercurial describes someone whose mood or behavior is changeable and unpredictable, or someone who is clever, lively, and quick

    Subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind.

    I've seen it used as a temporary change in personality, such as:

    The American Lieutenant
    He tilted his head and gave her a warm smile. He had become so mercurial lately.
    Inspector Specter
    "Maxie keeps going over there, supposedly to visit Kitty, but she gets really defensive about it. I'm worried something's wrong." Paul looked concerned. "Now that you bring it up, Maxie has been especially mercurial recently."
     
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