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#1 2005-11-21 19:44:12

Jerry Friedman
Member
Registered: 2005-11-10
Posts: 11

"Obtuse" for "abstruse" and/or "obscure"

Maybe this one isn’t an eggcorn because it’s so common. I’ve heard it from a friend who teaches English (!) and was reminded of it by an article in our local weekly here in Santa Fe. Some Web examples.

On Winslow Homer: “He also saw and painted a personal and obtuse phenomenal reality which is the subject of this web site.” <http://www.obtusebard.org/homer/>

Headline for a list of favorite films at Amazon: ” Strange, Controversial, Obtuse but Brilliant”. The films are Lolita (Lyne), American Beauty, Night of the Iguana, Dogma, Broken Blossoms, Snow White: a Tale of Terror, American History X, Freaks, The Virgin Suicides, 8mm, The Butcher Boy. <http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/fullview/3GHC53XX56J1F/104-0453775-6047933?%5Fencoding=UTF8>

“I’ve been running Hypernews happily for a few years now, but always shudder whenever I want to modify something – like turn on a feature. The reason I shudder is I know I’ll have to try to interpret some generally obtuse documentation (even though I play with Linux/UNIX hours a day, and have done so for years).” <http://www.hypernews.org/HyperNews/get/hypernews/email/125.html>

‘’The widespread confusion between “obtuse” and “abstruse” puzzled me until I realized that it maps to the double meaning of “dense” in “dense writing” and in “dense reader.”’ <http://www.pseudopodium.org/search.cgi?Obtuse>. There’s also an apparent example of that page.

” I Left Out The Unnecessarily Obtuse Moby-Dick Analogy” <http://www.mopie.com/blog/2005/01/i-left-out-unnecessarily-obtuse-moby>

“Strange and obtuse, but worth the struggle.” Another Amazon Listmania list, this time of albums. I’m not going to give the whole list, but the first one is Opel, by Syd Barrett.
<http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/fullview/1J81U8HKSRNND/104-0453775-6047933?%5Fencoding=UTF8>

Jerry Friedman

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#2 2005-11-22 19:57:30

Ben Zimmer
Member
Registered: 2005-10-15
Posts: 15
Website

Re: "Obtuse" for "abstruse" and/or "obscure"

That’s an interesting one. I can definitely see this as a blend of sorts of “obscure” + “abstruse”, and the double-duty of “dense” (or “thick”) for both stupid people and difficult topics certainly provides a semantic model.

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#3 2006-03-20 04:33:29

Jerry Friedman
Member
Registered: 2005-11-10
Posts: 11

Re: "Obtuse" for "abstruse" and/or "obscure"

Because of the overwhelming demand for more citations :-) here’s one.

”...I recommended [snip list of books] /Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound/ by Eric Tamm. A caveat about the last—it’s delightfully obtuse, technical, and not for those easily frustrated by Ph.D. theses.”

Brian Bieniowski, “A Possible Planet: SF and Electronic Music”, /Asimov’s Science Fiction/, April/May 2006, p. 23.

Jerry Friedman

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#4 2006-11-22 19:19:40

SkookumPete
Member
Registered: 2006-11-22
Posts: 9

Re: "Obtuse" for "abstruse" and/or "obscure"

In my experience, “obtuse” is almost universally used in American speech where “abstruse” is meant. Once when a colleague was explaining something very technical to me, he said “I’m sorry if I’m being obtuse,” I replied, “No, I’m obtuse. You’re abstruse.”

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