• fatuous •
Pronunciation: fæ-chu-wês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: No, you don't get fatuous by overeating or stuffing yourself with carbs. This word means "smugly or unconsciously foolish, silly, stupid" (the way we feel when we overeat or stuff ourselves with carbs).
Notes: The original pronunciation of this word was [fæ-tyu-wês] but the combination [ty] slips to [ch] in unaccented English in syllables: picture and lecture are pronounced similarly. The adverb is fatuously and the noun, fatuity, pronounced [fê-tyu-ê-ti], without [ty] becoming [ch] because it is in an accented syllable. OK, if you want to keep the [ch], you can use fatuousness.
In Play: This Good Word refers to a kind of stupidity that is unaware of itself: "Art Major's fatuous comment that "The Thinker" was Michelangelo's best sculpture was bad enough, but he had to continue on about what a wonderful Greek sculptor Michelangelo was!" All hopes of Art learning to keep his sculptors and sculptures straight may be a fatuous dream, too.
Word History: Today's Good Word is Latin fatuus "foolish, silly" in scant disguise. The Latin root fat- derives from the Proto-European-Root root *bhat-, which may also be the source of Latin battuere "to beat", which is related to English beat and bat. If so, the original meaning might have been "struck in the head". We are sure, however, that fade also descended from a late variant of fatuus via Old French fader. And that is something that happens when we are battered about the head.
Use this forum to discuss past Good Words.
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Dr. Goodword wrote: ... The Latin root fat- derives from the Proto-European-Root root *bhat-, which may also be the source of Latin battuere "to beat", which is related to English beat and bat. If so, the original meaning might have been "struck in the head". ...
The leap from the proposition in the first sentence above to that in the second seems to me to be of the sort which a Russian maths professor of mine, upon seeing a somewhat shaky proof of a theorem which I had dared to present to him, characterised as follows: «That is poetry, not mathematics !» How did «*bhat» suddenly gain the object «head» ? Or is that a fatuous question ?...
PS : But on another note, poetry has its place, if not in mathematics. Here's an example of the non-fautuous use of «fatuous» from Wilfred Owens' «Futility» (the last two lines) :
-O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?
- M. Henri Day
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