Saturday, November 17, 2007


I've been a slacker at living up to the title of my blog lately. The superfluousness of most of the words on my blog has been so lacking that you wouldn't even know that I'm a connoisseur of the more extravagant side of the lexicon.

In an effort to reform my ways, I bring you: inimical.

What in the world is inimical, you say? I was asking the same question about a week ago. I was sitting in church last Sunday, and our stake president (kind of like the Mormon analog of a Catholic bishop) was speaking. He used the word inimical, and Jenny, who was sitting next to me turned and asked, "What word did he just say?". I said I thought he said inamicable, she wrote it down, and the stake president continued speaking.

Later, Jenny informed me that the word was actually inimical, not inamicable (neither of which is to be confused with inimitable). I got excited because inimical was a potential new word to add to my already-too-large collection of words that you can't use when talking to your friends without them looking at you like you just arrived from Mars or something.

I wanted to get the full story on this intriguing new word, so I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary. I discovered that what I told Jenny wasn't too far off: inimical and inamicable mean about the same thing, and actually share the same Latin derivation. You probably don't care about that, though, and just wish that I would tell you what inimical means. I won't keep you hanging any longer: the OED defines inimical as
1. Having the disposition or temper of an enemy; unfriendly, hostile.
2. Adverse or injurious in tendency or influence; harmful, hurtful.
The OED is a great resource for word nerds like me because it doesn't just give a short definition of a word; it tells its whole life story: its birth, milestones in its life, and its current meaning. In this case, inimical began life as the negating prefix in-, plus amicus, which is Latin for "friend". Over time this became inimicus, and later inimicalis, which migrated over to English in the mid-1600's as inimical.

By this point, you're probably thinking, "Man, this guy is a nerd, and I just wasted way too long reading this way too long (and way too boring) blog post." Not so! Superfluous verbiage has its practical applications. In this case, your new inimical skills can be your secret weapon in awkward social situations. The next time some creepy person asks you if you want to go out with them, you can just reply that you're quite inimical to the idea and walk away while they're scratching their head wondering if that meant yes or no.

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