Sunday, October 14, 2007


I'm on a roll... This was not a DD wotd, but it sparks my interest as another word which may be both underutilized and misused.

Insipid derives from "in" meaning "not" and "sapidus" meaning "tasty". Cute. So "not tasty" becomes "flavorless" (not a big stretch there) to "without distinctive, interesting or stimulating qualities" generally. Ok. It's part of the natural shift to broaden the usage. At least it isn't a complete reversal of the word's etymology. Probably because this word evolved c. 1650, and not in the Middle Ages, either (see facetious and sarcastic). Was civilization smarter then? I'll leave that for someone else's discussion forum.

So, this insipid soup needs more herbs and definitely more salt. Poaching tenderloin makes great soup, but insipid steaks. After having found a recipe for pie crust that uses vodka, no one will claim that my apple pie is insipid. Alright, so that's the classic usage of the word that no one really uses. We just say bland. Now, the real fun begins with the expanded usage. Some words that DD proposes on wotd are just insipid. Jeremiad, pukka and mulct just don't inspire me. [Ed. note: These are words I do not intend to discuss on this forum. Look elsewhere if you want to know about them.] As a rule now, since I don't have time to deal with wotd on the daily basis that DD intends, I just skip the truly insipid ones and swoop for the most interesting (to me). Plaintiff's counsel's arguments are insipid. Insipid applies to intangibles and tangibles that rouse the taste element. The table is not insipid. The design scheme is insipid. Plaintiff's counsel may even be insipid, but I have some reservations about using this word with people or animates. I think since the modern definition comes from tasting, it has to be something that we perceive like a taste. I can "taste" the design scheme or the argument. I don't taste the furniture or the person. So I would use it sparingly with inedible tangibles, unless you're going for the sarcasm. I am diminishing Plaintiff's counsel to a bowl of soup. Sounds good to me. That's a double entendre of sarcasm!

1 comment:

cara said...

"plaintiff's counsel is insipid" I equate with Plaintiff's counsel is being insipid. Which is one step removed. But "being insipid" would mean is currently lackluster, boring, or pedestrian, in other words showing a lack of taste.