• fatuous •
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-wuhs], but the pronunciation combination [ty] slips to [ch] in unaccented English syllables; picture and lecture are pronounced similarly. The adverb is fatuously and the noun, fatuity, pronounced [fuh-tyu-uh-ti]. In this word [ty] does not become [ch] because it is in an accented syllable. (OK, if you want to keep the [ch], just use fatuousness.)
In Play: Fatuous 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. Fatuity has become commonplace in the US House of Representatives.
Word History: This word is Latin fatuus "foolish, silly" in scant disguise. The Latin root fat- derives from the Proto-Indo-European root bhaut- "to beat", the source of Latin battuere "to beat" and English beat and bat. If this interpretation is correct, the original meaning of fatuus might have been something like "struck in the head". The sound [bh] at the beginning of the word regularly became [f] in Greek and Latin before certain vowels. The root of refutare "to beat back, repress", whence English refute, is another word that comes from bhaut-. We are sure that fade is a descendant of a late variant of fatuus via Old French fader; that is something which happens when we are battered about the head.
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