Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Inane

Well, I absolutely love this word. It does not roll trippingly off the tongue, so it must be said with intent and clear diction. I don't think people use it enough, and I certainly don't think that those who do, use it correctly, so, let's dig in...

Inane simply enough comes directly from the Latin "inanis" for "empty, void or worthless" through the French "inanité". From c. 1400 to c. 1800, the word went from empty in a physical sense (including as a technical term for the void between dominant realities or the space between atoms) to empty-headed in an conceptional sense to silly in a behavioral or connotative sense. Ok, natural extensions. Nothing in space, nothing in your head, nothing worth hearing. So, of course, while it still retains a probably archaic usage about space from its etymological origins, now it refers to the things that empty-headed people would say. Which segues nicely into my first usage.

Plaintiff's counsel's inane arguments did not persuade anyone. This should draw the natural comparison to "insipid", which I analyzed earlier this week, and which means basically uninteresting. Certainly, Plaintiff's counsel's arguments could be both inane and insipid--silly and uninspiring--but I would probably lean towards inane. Although along the lines of rhombus and square, something which is inane could be insipid as the thing which is silly may also not inspire. But the articulable difference between inane and insipid is that insipid generally refers to intangibles which have "taste" from it origins in the taste of food, while inane may refer to anything which should have intellectual value. His thesis was filled with inane theories. Ok, if this was an astrophysical thesis, it could be a double entendre, but as a medieval literature thesis, it should be implied to be only the "modern" meaning. Her new novel had an inane plot where the dog did it. Blondes have a bad reputation for being inane. It doesn't work as well with people, as with their thoughts, but since this reputation is based on vacuousness and/or ditziness, the empty-headed and silliness works particularly well. Plaintiff's counsel is inane? possibly if he didn't study hard in law school and barely passed the bar exam. He would be technically devoid of knowledge. She gave him an insipid look indicating that she did not understand his discussion of the nuances of binary coding. I prefer vacant here. I still like inane better as a modifier of the intellectual thought, not a modifier of the alleged intellectual, but it has raised for me a number of words which may describe the void as well. Ah, well, as I said, I love this word, but I think I use is exclusively with Plaintiff's counsel. That I have so much occasion to use it just indicates the state of tort law. You'll need to find your own group of incompetents to apply this word (e.g., teachers, bosses/supervisors, coworkers, customers, relatives). Hmm. Maybe I need to use this word more...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Inane and insipid are both overused. They are almost always paired up together by pompous posers who could easily just say, "this is stupid!"