March 11, 2007


fatuous adj. [FACH'oo-us]
1. Vacuously, smugly, and unconsciously foolish
2. Delusive; unreal: "fatuous hopes"
From Latin fatuus. --fatuously adv. --fatuousness n.
--Am. Heritage 4.

Fatuous (adj.), Fatuity (n); Foolish (adj.), Foolishness (n).
Both adjectives mean lacking in judgment or common sense, stupid, asinine, silly, but fatuous [FACH you us] implies also a sense of complacency about one's foolishness.
"The moment the very name of Ireland is mentioned, the English bid adieu to common feeling, common prudence, and common sense and act with the fatuity of idiots." (Peter Pllymley's Letters [1929], p.9.)
--Dusseau, John L. Bugaboos, Chimeras, & Achilles' Heels. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993.
--The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Second Ed., for the Pilymley citation.



"Even by Washingon's standards, few debates have been more fatuous or wasted more energy than the fenzied speculation over whether President Bush will or will not pardon Scooter Libby. Of course he will."
--Rich, Frank.
"Why Libby's Pardon Is a Slam Dunk." New York Times: OP-ED, page 14. Sunday, March 11, 2007.



One day as a young man in college, I knew the benefits of my education as an English Major were beginning to take hold when
I found myself thinking that all of the jerks and jackasses on campus would be better described--apropros my advanced verbal sophistication--not by the cliched, anatomical epithet that happens to sound like "back-hoe," but with a brave new, piquant epithet.

I needed an inventive locution, one that was perhaps a syllable or two longer than "backhoe," one that spoke with just enough assonance to echo John Lyly's euphuistic melodies, and one that was seated in the bottommost ground of contempt.

Then, as if on fated cue, I happened upon the adjective "fatuous" in one of my readings. Liking its sound but not knowing its meaning, I looked up the word in Websters Second. As I warmed to its definition, I knew that I now had the opening word of my burgeoning sobriquet.

But how to end it? . . . how bring it to its extremity, to its conceptual fundament, to its bottom, . . . to its ass! I had it!

Thereafter, every jerk, every jackass, every "backhoe" I've ever met has been known within the ambit of my idiolect as a "Fatuous Ass"!

I've used the phrase only once in my life, snapping it at a guy in an argument: "You fatuous ass!" He raised his fist.

I've since decided to keep the phrase to myself--until today. Perhaps the reader might someday find the sobriquet useful. If so, be ready to duck.


No comments:

Post a Comment