Research Question: Pollyanna

Research help needed here, although for once it’s not for me.

If somebody referred to herself as being like Pollyanna, would you know what that meant or is the source so old it’s passed out of common usage?

150 thoughts on “Research Question: Pollyanna

  1. I would know, but I saw Hayley Mills in that movie. I had a student last week who didn’t know when George Washington lived, so by that standard a writer couldn’t refer to anything,

    1. I believe it goes back to the book and if she referred to herself as being like Pollyanna, wouldn’t she be the eternal optimist, looking on the good side, because that’s what Pollyanna did.

  2. I’m 27 and I totally know what she means. I’ve seen the Haley Mills movie a bunch of times… although my Mom did keep quite a few older movies in the house. And we own the Pollyanna board game and it’s a regular family tradition.

      1. Yep. It’s kind of weird because the game has NOTHING to do with the book or movie. It’s more like Parcheesi except the board is different and so are a few of the rules. But when you’re competitive and enjoy “sending people home” like my family does, it’s also very fun. I think it’s kind of hard to find now, but we have a few copies in my extended family.

  3. I’m 51, so I might be old enough to have passed out of common usage. πŸ˜‰ Yes, I’ve seen the movie and know the reference. Never read the book, didn’t know there was a board game.

  4. I’m overseas so probably not the right demographis (only: your books sell right good in our parts of the world). I had to look it up when I came across it as the blog-name of a fellow cherry. Now I know roughly what it means, but never knew there was either a film nor a book or a board game.

    Doris in Munich * Bavarian Cherry

  5. I’m in the UK, over 50 – and I’ve never been quite sure what that phrase means. I think of it as a very American thing. I *think* it means too good to be true, but that may be hopelessly wrong.

    1. I’m in the UK, 40. Same thing here. I’ve heard it on the internet, but only guessed at what it means. A “Goody two shoes”?

      1. It means someone who’s optimistic / always finds a good side to every bad situation, to the point of being unrealistic or at least naive

  6. Definitely. I read the first two books by the original author (Porter?) and a few of the follow ups by others and saw the movie… I’m 34 and Australian… But I read everything as a teen!

    1. Me too! Australian, read it in my teens, read a lot… It’s either that here or do sports and get a tan, and I do not tan. (That’s not quite true, I did accidentally overseas once, and it turns out I go the orange of fake tan… Not good) . Similar era, 37. But other things do refer to it too.

      I also agree with the person who says (paraphasing) writing for the lowest-common-denominator leaves you with a very short (no attention span) story of one-syllable words. Possibly with brands so everyone knows whether they like it or not.

      1. Likewise Australian, and I also read the book as a young teen. I’m only 27, and I’m pretty sure other people my age would get the reference, although I know I read more than anyone else that I knew back then.

        You’re so right about the sports Margaret, and I don’t tan either. Also, team sport? Yeah, not my thing. I just don’t play well with others.

  7. I would know, but I am old (and today I feel impossibly older than I even am), and so I trundled off and interviewed the student employees (22 of them, age range 19-24). Results: most of them know. the ones that do not are students doing their year abroad in the US from 1. europe 2. china 3. brazil. Now the students are in an uproar about how some of them were made to read rebecca of sunnybrook farm. It is very entertaining. Thanks!

  8. I would know – I’m 31, Australian, and used to watch the movie a lot. I think the term gets used enough (even if it’s meant as an insult!) that people would get it, even if they had never heard of the book or movie. (I just checked the online Oxford English Dictionary, and Pollyanna is common enough as a term that it is listed there, both as an adjective – ‘Resembling Pollyanna; naively cheerful and optimistic; unrealistically happy’ – and a noun – ‘A person able to find cause for happiness in the most disastrous situations; a person who is unduly optimistic or achieves happiness through self-delusion.’

  9. I know, because I have my grandmother’s hardback of the original book. Pink silk cover, spine starting to shred. There is also a sequel, which cements Pollyanna’s reputation as the biggest Mary Sue in kidlit.

    1. Pollyanna, I’m familiar with. Mary Sue? Not so much. Do the two terms mean the same thing, or is there a difference?

      1. There’s a difference. Pollyanna always looks on the bright side of life. Mary Sue is just impossibly sweet which makes her a flat character. Pollyanna is aggressively optimistic; Mary Sue just smiles a lot and never does anything that isn’t nice. Of the two, I’ll take Pollyanna, although having shared a house for three years with a woman who speaks chipperish 24/7, I can tell you the urge to yell “We’re all gonna die and there’s nothing you can do about it” does strike occasionally.

        1. Mary Sue has also come to mean a blatant way to insert yourself into the story to allow for wish fulfillment, at least in fanfic. And the Mary Sue generally has a series of improbable physical characteristics as well – hair color, eye color, tallness or thinness or both and omg madskillz in something weird.

        2. Pollyanna I knew (Midwestern baby boomer, haha). But Mary Sue is new to me.

          Huh. Where I miss out on that? (Or is this relatively new? I having been living outside of the US more or less continuously since about 1980…)

          1. It’s new-ish. I don’t know if it’s actually made it to mainstream pop culture, but writers often use the term. (-: You don’t want to write a Mary Sue . . . . (Except, I think it would be kind of fun — but it couldn’t be based upon *me* because a heroine with mad canning skills would just be boring. What would she do? Throw a jar of pickles at the villain?)

          2. Quoting from Brave New Words; Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction (what, everyone doesn’t have this as a reference on their desk?)

            Mary Sue n. [after the main character in a parody of this type of story] a character in a work of fiction (especially fan fiction) who is perceived as carrying out a wish-fulfillment of the author, especially one who has a romantic or sexual relationship with a character from an existing fictional universe.

  10. 21 year old American. I would know, but only because my mother (British, in her 60s) had me watch it. Most of my friends do not know the reference. Also, had no clue it was a book first…

  11. I remember watching the movie 30+ years ago. I’m 43. I think of it as a person overly optimistic, cheerful, and perky. Someone who sees things as being better than they are. I’m also pessimistic.

  12. I’m 27 and I know what it means. But I was only allowed to watch movies from the public library’s collection so I have an eclectic knowledge of older movies. I’d also get a Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte reference, so I may not be representative…

  13. I’m 37 and I know. I watched the movie. My 17-year-old would know. I made her watch the movie when she was younger.

  14. My kids, 32 and 29 both know the meaning. The American Heritage College Dictionary says: Foolishly or blindly optimistic.
    I always think of her as cheerful and optimistic. : )

  15. 28, middle of the Midwest/Southern California growing up, know what it means, but never realized it was a book and a movie.

  16. 39, Australian, read the books (loved the second one best) and saw the movie years ago. I have a friend called Pollyanna, and judging by people’s reaction to her name there are quite a lot of people out there who still know who Pollyanna is. I don’t think my friend’s quite forgiven her mother yet for naming her after a little ray of sunshine.

  17. I’m 30 and I watched the Haley Mills movie. I have also heard “pollyanna” used as a description. I can’t think of when the last time was, but I still think of it as a common English phrase.

  18. My wife and I are 52 and knew the reference, my 22 year old gamer son didn’t.(I didn’t know about the Hayley Mills movie, either).

  19. I was working with a bunch of high schoolers and I used the term “Pollyanna” and they had no idea what I was talking about. When I try to explain about Haley Mills which led to Parent Trap, they thought I meant Lindsay Lohan and it went downhill from there. So the answer your question, yeah I think it might be dated….. And I think I’m much older than I initially thought

  20. I’ll be 55 and I believe that a Polyanna is someone who is totally optimistic, believes the best in people and situations, etc. Not a cynical cell in her body.

    I never knew it was from a Hayley Mills movie!

  21. I’m 47, never read the book or saw the movie, but I know what it means. My husband (51) did not, but he’s linguistically challenged.

  22. I am 41, and I’ve seen the movie. I’m actually from Sonoma County, where parts of the movie were filmed. πŸ™‚ I use the term regularly, too… “She’s quite a Pollyanna, isn’t she?”

  23. 45 and I know, but my 16 year old son did not know. He’s pretty pop-culture literate. He’d be likely to get a Pulp Fiction joke, for example, or a Casablanca reference. Make a Pollyanna meme, spread it across the internet, and he’ll know it by the time the book comes out. πŸ™‚

  24. I would know what it meant, and I am 29. I have seen the movie (but I haven’t read the book). However, I think it is really more culturally situated so that we know what it means despite not being aware of where it came from.

  25. I’m 41. Have read the book and seen the film. But I had grandmothers and a mum who liked to give me classic/older books (yay)!

  26. 23, USian. I wouldn’t get it. I would know that it’s a reference I SHOULD get, like when I saw references to Heathcliff before reading Wuthering Heights (which I couldn’t stand, but never mind). So…Pollyanna is something I don’t know, but it’s something I KNOW I don’t know, rather than something I don’t even know I don’t know. If that makes any sense at all.

  27. I’m 37 and I’d understand the reference. My sister and I grew up on Hayley Mills’ movies. Never read the book, though.

  28. I would know. I have used the reference about myself and other people have known. I am in my early forties and people up to 10 years younger than I have recognized the reference.

  29. Hm. I’m 42, have read the book, but then again I was reading anything I could get my hands on as a kid. My 14 y/o daughter does not know what Pollyanna means. But then I haven’t been able to get her to read Anne of Green Gables, or Little Women, either! She’s locked on to Harry Potter fan fiction. Bleh!

  30. Thank you for your help, Arghonauts! I’m one of Jenny’s students in the McDaniel course she’s teaching now, and that question was for me. I turned in my first scene the other day, and two out of three of my fellow student critique partners stalled on who Pollyanna was, and I have to confess, I was a bit crushed. I’d thought that a reference to Pollyanna would be universal. And from your input here, my takeaway is that while Pollyanna isn’t universal, she’s well-enough known that I can use that reference. Thank you again! I enjoyed hearing about everybody’s experiences with the sunny Pollyanna. Or Polyanna, as the case may be. πŸ™‚

    1. I think that if your character is under 30, it wouldn’t work to have her referring to Pollyanna to describe self or other character. If you have someone older describe her as a Pollyanna, sure. Happy writing.

  31. 56, English: read the books, doubtless saw the film (have a feeling there was a BBC adaptation years ago, too). I imagine that awareness would plummet among 20-somethings and younger – unless something’s been a recent film or TV event, or a video game, I don’t think it’ll be on their radar. But I wouldn’t let that stop you – the bulk of my education came from being exposed to all kinds of vocabulary and references in stories that I didn’t get at first when I was growing up. One of the delights of reading is the rich worlds you go into, and not every detail has to make sense immediately.

    By the way, this is my writer/reader self speaking. My copy-editing day-job persona would be more inclined to demand everything be clear – but you have to fight against this impetus to blandness! (Anyway, as a copy-editor I wouldn’t query Pollyanna. Many readers wouldn’t know exactly who Adonis was, or Tristram Shandy, but they’d be expected to. Or to Google them if they’re stuck, I suppose.)

    1. Very true. I think I learned Ancient Greek references – to start with – from looking up the lyrics of songs by the Police. No Internet then, either, so it was harder work, but rewarding. Plain English is all very well for public policy and the bus timetable, but it’s a bit flat otherwise.

  32. I’m 27, from NJ. I remember watching the Haley Mills movie a long time ago, and remember her falling from the tree and being paralyzed. But I didn’t remember the beginning (and apparently main plot) of the movie, and was hazy on the definition.

      1. Oh, kids were always falling out of, or into, things and getting paralysed or otherwise having character-building experiences (“Timmy’s in the well!”). Supervision of children – reduction of physical misadventure generally – has come a long way since then, which is generally reflected in the stories written. Probably about the same era, my relatives were dying in mining accidents and electrocuting themselves climbing pylons. These days most people expect their kids to all reach adulthood – in the first world countries, anyway.

  33. Like Bavarian Cherry, I live in Germany where nobody knows about Pollyanna. Since I’ve been reading a lot of American novels and websites, however, I came across the name a few times and somehow gathered that it must mean a naive, old-fashioned girl (I picture her with a straw hat and a checkered gingham dress, maybe an apron – I have no idea where that comes from, though). But if you mentioned her in a novel, you’d give your translator a hard time, I guess. But so does any mention of Krispy Kremes or Twinkies.

  34. My mom would often use it to describe someone (often herself) who was optimistic without having any real reason to be optimistic. I read the book as a kid, and I may have watched the Hayley Mills movie (she also did The Parent Trap — I think they are both Disney movies).

  35. I guess it depends on how it used anyway. If its for colour, it doesn’t matter if the reader doesn’t get it. I read a lot of Dorothy L Sayers with references to god knows what and I still loved the books. That whole very academic setting (Gaudy Night) is just another gorgeous foreign setting to me. But if a plot point hangs on it, people had better understand it.

    1. I have always LOVED the fact that Sayers assumed her readers were intelligent enough to figure things out. My favourite example is Clouds of Witness, in which there is a long, untranslated passage in French. Some editions include a translation, but the original didn’t.

  36. I am 38 and Australian, and I would know. I read three of the books, and saw the movie a long time after.

  37. I’m 52 and saw the movie. I actually refer to myself as a Pollyanna sometimes (“I used to be really negative, but these days I am so positive I am almost a Pollyanna”) and no one has seemed confused by the reference. Of course, maybe I’m just being overly optimistic about that πŸ™‚

  38. I would and English is not my first language and not born here. I think its common enough a phrase/cliche.

  39. My friends call me Pollyanna or we often joke about finding our inner Pollyanna. I’ve never used the reference and had someone ask me what it meant or who she is so between that and all the comments above I’d say you’re good to go.

  40. 42 years old, midwest, and never read the book or saw the movie, as far as I can remember. But I do have a sense of the meaning. Probably picked up from context in all the reading I’ve done.

  41. 39, from the northeast, and I know the expression and what it means, without ever having been curious enough to look up the source. It’s one of those things like “rule of thumb” that’s just part of the language now.

  42. I’m 51, and would get the reference. However, I found it sad when the twenty-ish next to me in line on Black Friday didn’t get my “At the end of this line I expect them to show me the sunrise then turn me into Soylent Green” quip. Pop culture needs a tuneup.

  43. I’m 38. Grew up in New England and no Sunday would be complete without a Disney afternoon movie. And they always seem to be showing “Pollyanna”. So yes, I know what it means, but for me, calling someone a “Pollyanna” implied more about the name-caller than the “Pollyanna”. Really, how cynical & bitter do you have to be to put down someone who is eternally optimistic?

  44. I’m 65. My grandmother had the book and I read hers. Never saw the movie. The phrase has been around for a long time. If you want obscure, not to mention nauseous, you could have a mother that had her children call her “Dearest” as did little Lord Fauntleroy.

    1. Hey, it wasn’t her idea. Her husband called her that, and Ceddie just picked it up. Though great segue to another “too sweet to be true” character.

  45. My thinking is that the expression has been in use so long that a majority of people in the U.S. would know what was meant, even if they didn’t know the origin.

    I also don’t think you should second guess yourself on this. It would be like leaving out all the pop culture and music references just because some people wouldn’t get it. If they don’t it will be a learning moment.

  46. This would be an incredibly cheerful and optimistic person, right? I’ve heard the expression somewhere and have a vague idea what it means, but had no idea where it came from. I’m 24.

  47. Born 1950. Hayley was my heroine, so it’s a yes for my age group and culture (WASP, Toronto).
    However, are we talking “do you know who Pollyanna is” or “do you know that it means “sugary sweet, annoying little miss sunshine.” (Apparently the Disney movie toned down the syrupiness.)

    Meanwhile, Kay (it was your question, right?) it might be a chance for some fun if your character says “pollyanna” and then has some splainin to do when met with blank stares.

      1. Ha! Got the Lucy reference, Susan D (born 1951, myself), so that’s why I wondered if I was appealing to my generation only. Right now the Pollyanna reference comes up in the second paragraph of Chapter 1, and I think I’ll just move it to a later spot. That way, nobody will stop reading altogether if they run into it and have to stop and figure it out.

  48. I’m 42 going on 43. I know what it means because it was an SAT word:) I’ve never seen the movie although I know of it’s existence but I have played the board game.Also, it’s one of those words that you tend to find in classic mystery novels.

    Personally, I say use it. Never write for the lowest common denominator.

  49. I’m 60. Watched original movie with Hayley Mills, many times. I know what it means as I was called it a few times and it wasn’t meant as a compliment. Think Doris Day, Sandra Dee and Sandy from Grease! But I’m GLAD for the description.

  50. I’m 64, a transplanted northerner now in South Florida and know what Pollyanna means even though I’ve not read the book or seen the movie. It’s probably something I picked up from mention of the movie when it came out and from use of the word in other material I’ve read in the past. Although I know what it means, I don’t use it myself in conversation.

  51. I’ve never read the book and didn’t even know there was a movie, much less a boardgame, but I know what it means. Checked Google Books to see how current it is, and noticed it pops up in the latest edition of the psychiatric diagnosis manual (Handbook of Diagnosis and Treatment of DSM-IV Personality Disorders): “The cognitive style of dependent personalities is characterized by suggestibility. They easily adopt a Pollyanna-type attitude toward life. Furthermore, they tend to minimize difficulties, and because of their naivete, they are readily persuadable and others easily take advantage of them.” The reference seems bizarrely more popular in nonfiction (especially dealing with psychology and self-help) than in fiction.

  52. I’m 28, and I know what it means although I had no idea it was connected to a movie or book. I must have come across others using the term with some slight explanation or context and picked up the meaning of it.

  53. There is a phrase used about Americans being optimists where they look for the best in every situation. But a Pollyanna is someone who is high handed and think they know what is right in any given moment.

  54. I love the movie, and it was just on the Disney channel recently. I think you can watch the movie for free online, in case someone hasn’t seen it yet. Hayley Mills, Jane Wyman, Karl Malden, Agnes Moorehead, and a very young Kurt Russell are in it.

    Calling a wide-eyed optimist a Pollyanna is still in use: Carrie on “Sex and the City” once called Charlotte a “Park Avenue Pollyanna.”

  55. My SIL is adopted and her mother lived in the US for 20 yrs or so. I know the reference (in my 30s) because I read a lot (in several languages) and I am online a lot on US reader blogs and sites. However, most of my relatives, local or diaspora in North America, do NOT know the term, especially the older generations. Even the more fluent ones in English. Not sure about the younger ones. So, I do think it would have to be explained in some way. “What? You think I’m too nice???” or something like that.

  56. I just commented but forgot to include the pertinent info. SIL’s adoptive mother named her Pollyanna. One of my UK friends thought I was mocking SIL until I told her that was her actual name. (The mother is in her 80s, moved to the US in the late 50s or 60s so I guess that explains it).

  57. I’ve been called a Pollyanna and, referencing an earlier comment, I was named after Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I’m so much of an optimist I have to tone it down so I don’t drive my husband (soooo NOT an optimist!) insane. He and I are both 60. I read the book and saw the movie. (Loved both, hated Heidi!) He had a crush on Hayley Mills, which could explain why he understood the reference even though he grew up in the U.K.

    1. It WAS scary. I remember getting all upset and making an excuse to leave the room when the Grandfather tried to reach out to Heidi in the street in Frankfurt, and was arrested or something.

  58. I definitely know. I read the book–several times. I’ve watched the movie–several times. On the other hand, I’m a happy depository of useless and out-dated info.

  59. I own several of the Pollyanna books and was so impressed by here as a child that I adopted “The Glad Game” as a way of life. Because you are looking for popular knowledge of the word, I decided to google it. Among other resources, Pollyanna is in the dictionary because the reference is so common. Here’s is the link.,mod=14&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

  60. I would, having still got the books. But I was born in 1954 so … I’ll ask some people of youth and get back to you.

  61. Here is the Wikipedia reference:

    Pollyanna is a best-selling 1913 novel by Eleanor H. Porter that is now considered a classic of children’s literature, with the title character’s name becoming a popular term for someone with the same optimistic outlook.[1] The book was such a success that Porter soon produced a sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up (1915). Eleven more Pollyanna sequels, known as “Glad Books”, were later published, most of them written by Elizabeth Borton or Harriet Lummis Smith. Further sequels followed, including Pollyanna Plays the Game by Colleen L. Reece, published in 1997.

    Pollyanna has been adapted for film several times. Some of the best-known include Disney’s 1960 version starring child actress Hayley Mills, who won a special Oscar for the role, and the 1920 version starring Mary Pickford.

  62. I would not use the term naturally but I’d refer to myself as a goody two shoes?

    I turned 60 this year. (But I’m really 6 and a half years old and if I am being grown up I’m a WHOLE seven!)

  63. FWIIW
    Asked the 20ish folks at dr office, none of them knew—but uniformly told me i could find it on Google if I needed to know. Welcome to the 21st century.

  64. I’m 24 years old and I know who Pollyanna is. Then again I love older movies… I may be the exception to the rule….

  65. Yes, but I think it is more usual for person A to accuse person B of being a Pollyanna; there is definitely a negative connotation to being so optimistic and positive, so it is less likely someone would claim to be one. I have read the book and seen the movie!

  66. I would get, and I’m in my early twenties. I know I’ve heard it used a reference often enough – I read the book just so I wouldn’t feel like I missing out on something – so I think most people would at least be familiar with it in passing, even if they haven’t read the book or seen the movie.

  67. I would know, but I’m 40 (and saw Pollyanna as a kid). Don’t think it would matter though, there’s always google for those who don’t get it right away.

  68. I’m one of those Europeans who had to work out from context what references to Pollyanna mean. These days I would just google it.
    For what it’s worth, American fiction is full of references that mean nothing to me. For years I wondered what Oreos were. I realised they were biscuits, but what did they taste like? The first time I saw a packet in a shop, I bought them. Let me tell you, unhallowed by childhood memories they are disgusting. It has changed my reaction whenever people in novels have milk and Oreos.

    1. I feel the same way about Krispy Kreme donuts. They were not on the Washington and Oregon State until about 10 years ago and I grew up in a small town with a great bakery that made a wonderful assortment of donuts. The only time I bought a Krispy Kreme french cruller donut it turned out to a regular donut that had been made in a mold instead of an egg based raised donut and tasted nothing like a french cruller. I have never been back.

      1. Krispy Kreme is all about the standard glazed. When they are fresh, they are melt-in-your- mouth magic. It’s probably a good thing that anytime I’ve owned a car, I’ve lived more than 25 miles from the nearest Krispy Kreme, and the ones sold in urban areas usually are boxed and shipped in from somewhere else and totally lacking in that magic.

  69. I’m 52 – I own all the Pollyanna books. Did you know there were more than the first one? I think I have ten or 12; Pollyanna gets married, has kids, helps people out – I loved these books.

  70. OK, so this discussion brings up a point: would you stop reading a book and look up a term if you didn’t know it? Once in a while, when I’m on a self-improvement kick, I’ll read with a dictionary next to me (I had great English teachers, though, so I don’t usually need it). Google is right out for me because I don’t have a smart-phone. But even if I had a smart-phone, I don’t know if I’d look it up . . . .

  71. I’ll be 62 next month, and I know what it is. I heard advance publicity for the movie on the Disney show, probably, saw the movie in the theater and read the comic-book tie-in. I do not remember if I read the book. I’m sure I checked it out of the library but don’t remember if I finished it; probably not. Maybe I’ll take a shot at it now; there’s bound to be an e-book copy of Project Gutenberg, or I’ll just get it from the library. Right now I’m rereading Marge Piercy’s Small Changes for the first time in 35 years, so I may not get to Pollyanna for a while. (And now I have k.d. lang’s early song “Pollyann”, about a Canadian brand of white bread, running through my head.)

  72. I have often seen the terms “Polly” and “Debbie” both used on different community boards when people are referring to being positive or negative about a situation. I’m 37 and I have seen the movie so I knew what the term meant for Pollyanna, and Debbie refers to being a Debbie Downer. I had no idea it was a book first.

    Since this is my first post here, I will just mention that I love your books and I reread them all the time. Thank you for your wonderful characters and turn of phrase.

  73. I’m 22 and Australian and I didn’t know it, though like most people my age I just google it when I don’t understand a reference. I did this yesterday when reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, I googled Dresden and found out about the Dresden bombings which provided context to the story.

  74. I’m 32 and American, and I know what the reference means, having watched the movie on Betamax or something during my childhood, although I don’t think I knew about the book.

    BUT people my age don’t really reference Pollyanna anymore. It will make your character sound either older or old-fashioned. My friends and I would be more likely to just say optimist, or say that we’re thinking positive.

  75. 27, US–all I can think is the “glad game”. We watched it several times growing up and I would still use it talking to a certain sect of my friends. Others, including my husband, would be clueless. However, I enjoy references in books to things I may not be familiar. It prompts me to go learn about them – like Walking Ware. πŸ™‚

  76. I’m 52 and from the UK, and I’d know – from the book. I liked Pollyanna – she was actively optimistic, rather than being Helen in Jane Eyre and dying angelically/passively.

  77. I’m 27 and from South Africa and I’d know – I read the book, but did not realize there was a sequel.

  78. i’m 38, and i knew. but in my family full of cynics, it is not a positive comparison.

    maybe (ha!) i’m odd, but i routinely look up words and references that i don’t know when i’m reading. it’s a fine line though – if i get the feeling that the author is using words/phrases to feel superior, i’ll drop him/her like a hot rock and never go back.

  79. I’m 28 and would most definitely assume that if someone was a “Pollyanna” then they were someone who always saw the good in people and could find something good in even the worst situations. A Pollyanna isn’t sheltered or naive – rather its someone who makes a deliberate choice to think positively about people, places and situations.
    I am known as Mary Poppins (from the movie not the books) as I used to work as a nanny for a family of 4 children under 3 years old. It was so much fun! I threw myself into loving on those kids, keeping the kids, house and kitchen in perfect order and often didn’t notice when the parents were home and was often caught singing (full volume & making up my own tunes and words) to the kids. (Thankfully I have a reasonable voice.) They were messy babies so I always wore a striped apron when at work, either blue & white, green & white or pink & white. 4 years later I still meet people in my town who ask if I am the ‘Mary Poppins’ who worked for ____.
    I also have deliberately worked on getting a Pollyanna attitude. I used to suffer from depression but by focusing on either how much worse things could be forces me to be grateful for how good things actually are or I make sure I find the good in everything. It is very, very rare that this technique fails – at the worst I fall back on the fact I can see in colour, I can hear, none of my nerves are dead so I have full feeling in all my body, I can breath … the list continues

  80. I’d know (I’m 58), and your usual readership would know…but today’s 20-30 year olds might not know. Context would be a clue to an unknowing reader.

  81. I often adopt Pollyanna as my alter-moniker, and people always seem to recognize the name… although, interestingly, many define it as a negative thing! Silly naysayers.

  82. I’m 21 years old. I would know what it meant, but since I haven’t watched the movie or read the book, it wouldn’t be a particularly vibrant reference. But it wouldn’t throw me out of the story either.

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