English language words -- positive vs. negative

A friend at work wants to build his vocabulary with words he might actually use in everyday speech, so I’m giving him a word or two a day.

Now, I don’t know if it’s just me – I’m a critical-at-heart kind of guy – but it seems like most of the words I immediately think of have negative connotations. It seems to be more work to come up with “positive” words (today’s is “resplendent”).

I’m curious: in the English language, are there simply more words with negative than positive connotations? Other than going item by item through the OED, I have no idea how to find an answer.

Any thoughts?

WAG time: maybe we (as in humans) equate happiness with the status quo, or rather how things should be in a default state. So when things go well it is unremarkable, as we expect things to be right; but when things go wrong it represents a degradation from the norm and we feel the need to comment.

Sort of the same reasoning why we don’t have “200 planes landed safely at JFK this morning” headlines, it’s positive but expected and so not worthy of comment.

That’s an idea.

So maybe it would be interesting to check the language of Bhutan? Isn’t that the country that has a GNP index for happiness?

Maybe your critical nature is causing you to think of definitions that are negative? Almost all words have multiple meanings and that increases the odds of having at least one negative definition. Resplendent is one of those words that’s used so little that it still has only one definition.

It seems to me that the vast majority of words are neutral in their basic meanings.

Maybe. That does change my view on a couple of things, like “terse” and “ape” (the verb).