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Chris -- 2011-03-08
Another confusion is abroad in the world, this time between a pair of less than commending words. The little-used “otiose” comes from a Latin word for superfluous/idle/lazy. “Odious” traces back to the Latin odium for the feeling/the fact of hatred.
Some English speakers use “otiose” when they mean “odious,” substituting the negativity of the one for the negativity of the other by unvoicing the dental. Several examples below. Perhaps these confusers are blending the senses of the two words, saying that an act or a person is disagreeable and futile.
: “Clay Aiken’s coming out was about as surprising as Elton John’s, only less courageous…. For years certain bloggers have referred to Aiken as ‘Gayken,’ a practice as otiose as it is childish. ”
: “What will Mr Prescott’s epitaph be? But for one thing, he might simply be remembered as a capering fool – a kind of George Brown without the charm. Sadly, however, he will leave behind a physical monument, bigger, uglier and more otiose than its author. ”
: “If there is a more otiose character in public life than Mark Lawson, several moments’ head-scratching has failed to reveal who it might be”
: “In 40 years in the Civil Service, I never had the misfortune to read a document so otiose, so full of jargon and gobbledegook (not to mention osbcenities) as this one. Whatever happened to plain English?”
: “Stated differently, I can’t understand why she has to be so otiose. Maybe a dybbuk has taken up residence inside her head and is making her make it virtually impossible to fire incompetent workers.”
: “I will tell you candidly that many people are incredulous when I tell them that she intends to marginalize and eventually even outlaw responsible critics of feckless, lubricious losers. ‘How could Fran be so otiose ?’, they ask me. ‘It doesn’t seem possible.’ ”