Secular Right | Reality & Reason



The Joy Of Obnox

Mr. Hume:  I’m pretty much with you on all that.

Casting around for book ideas a while ago, I thought of writing a nihilist’s handbook, with a title something like You’re A Smart Ape, There Is No God, And Your Thoughts Stop When You Die.  After mulling it over, though, I discarded the idea.  No market.

I wish, by the way, that the English language had a more euphonious word for “the quality of being obnoxious.”  I keep wanting to say “obnoxity,” but it’s not in any dictionary.  “Obnoxiousness” is clumsy to the point of being … obnoxious.

“Not nostrums but normalcy” — Warren G. Harding.

“Not obfuscation but obnoxity” — Bradlaugh.

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  • Apathy Curve · June 25, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Bah! The fact that a word isn’t in a dictionary doesn’t invalidate its usage. To the best of my knowledge, James Taranto conjured the word “kerfuffle” from thin air and uses it regularly in his WSJ column. As a more personal example, my wife (a highly educated woman and school administrator with perfect written and spoken English skills) loves nothing more than inventing words to encompass her concepts. For example: “scientrifical.” This is a word she uses to describe the data-bites media outlets like to toss out as scare tactics. They are usually scientifically accurate, but ultimately meaningless — i.e., trivial. Thus, scientrifical.

    It’s a perfectly good word, no matter what Mr. Webster has to say on the matter.

  • Susan · June 25, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Taranto didn’t invent “kerfuffle”. Australians have been using it for decades, though it comes out sounding more like “kafuffle” when spoken in Strine.

    I once knew a very brilliant scientist who invented (or said he invented) the word “infact.” He said it had a quite different meaning from the phrase “in fact,” though he couldn’t explain to me what the difference was. He used it in his scholarly articles. When I asked him if his readers knew what “in fact” meant, he said he didn’t care if they did because HE knew what it meant. I replied that it was pointless to use words known only to one member of the human race in an article intended to inform, since the whole purpose of language is to communicate. He didn’t get it.

  • Author comment by David Hume · June 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm says it is of scottish provenance btw (kerfuffle).

  • Susan · June 25, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I heard “kerfuffle” first from an Australian in Edinburgh. True story.

  • mikespeir · June 26, 2010 at 12:32 am


    If we use it enough, C & G Merriam will have to pen it in.

  • Susan · June 26, 2010 at 1:45 am

    “Obnoxeity” might be better than “obnoxity”.

  • George · June 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Just for a point of clarification, Bradlaugh, should we take this post to mean that you have abandoned New Mysterianism in favor of atheism?

  • Author comment by Bradlaugh · June 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    More like apatheism, George. Can’t be much bothered thinking about it all any more.

    I have, though, let go of the afterlife. I used to say I was open to the idea, but I really can’t any more.

  • outeast · July 2, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Obnoxity is in my dictionary (sOED), but defined as ‘an objectionable person or thing’ rather than as the quality of being obnoxious. I rather like it – I’m going to have to get into an argument with someone now just so’s I can call them an obstreperous obnoxity or somesuch.

    Kerfuffle is a good couple of hundred years old, btw, and its most likely antecedent (curfuffle, to ruffle or disorder) predates it by another couple of centuries.

  • Brothajohn · July 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Truthiness. Language lives. Employ your obnoxity to it’s utmost.



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