An Otiose Curiosity

I’m reading along in a delightful tome titled, “Victorian London,” by Liza Picard, and I come across (quoting The Builder, magazine) “ineffable subtilty… liquesencies…. ” and other gems that have me opening up my online OED.

Then I stumble into “otiose,” an old friend from vocabulary quizzes whom I hadn’t seen for some time. OED defines otiose as:

Of belief, principle, thought, etc.: having no practical

result; unfruitful, sterile; futile, pointless.

The Latin root means almost the same thing–idle, sterile, unemployed. I like the word because it’s a bit stuffy, a bit of the thing it defines. Not an otiose flight of obscurity–though one could, after all, trot out plain old “pointless” and achieve the same result–but a word to use sparingly and for effect.

And yet, I know I’m going to love this book. It’s about London’s history, it starts off describing the horrific stench of mid-century 19th century London, and it’s making me use the dictionary. Delightful!

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