Monday, May 17, 2010

OH MY WORD: stultifying

Stultifying: appearing stupid, inconsistent, or ridiculous. (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Ed.)

I remember the first time I read the word stultifying. A friend used it to describe written passages I had shared with her. They weren't passages I'd written, but they were ones I cherished just the same. Not so much for her. The ensuing dialog between us was a tough but valuable one; ultimately it allowed us to share our thoughts and beliefs more openly and sustain a friendship that has lasted decades.

But that isn't why I chose the word stultifying to highlight today. Stultify is a cool word. It does more than simply render something stupid or ridiculous--it slashes at and stomps into the ground what it considers ridiculous. It is onomatopoeia-like in nature. It stops us in our tracks, like a rimshot on a drum, or a sforzando. It gets in our face. It means business.

But it doesn't do business in an elegant way. It's heavy and harsh and, as a result, renders its intended victim even more stupid, inconsistent, and ridiculous.

When I was first introduced to stultifying I didn't like it very much. Now I wield it occasionally myself, respecting it as the useful weapon it is.


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