Lastest “ness” monster

Lots of blogosperic chatter about the “vacuousness” of the Pledge to America. (One nation, indivisible, being bullshat again by the GOP.)

I don’t disagree, but I would like to point out that the word is “vacuity.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

12 thoughts on “Lastest “ness” monster”

  1. My dictionary includes both words. Riverside Webster's II New College Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Co. 1995), p. 1217.

    As I understand the usual usage, vacuity means a literal emptiness or absence ("a vacuity of new ideas"), while vacuousness is a more metaphorical emptiness and usually means stupidity or inanity ("the vacuousness of their ideas").

  2. My Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines "vacuity" as absolute emptiness; a complete absence of ideas; an empty or vacant space; it defines "vacuousness" as the noun form of the adjective vacuous meaning unintelligent, lacking susbstance or content; meaningless;empty.

    The Pledge is not a complete absence of ideas, they are ideas, just unintelligent, meaningless "war on arithmetic" kind of ideas. I'm sticking with vacuousness as the more accurate descriptor. Perhaps CNN can pick up the debate, and as there are always only 2 sides to any issue, you and I can appear: you to defend vacuity and I to argue for vacuousness.

  3. Does its position in the blogospheric sentence mean it is a noun or adj?

    Nonetheless, John Stewart's treatment of it last night was very, very funnyness.

  4. Google Books confirms plenty of hits for both words in the 19th and 20th centuries. Always fewer for "vacuousness," but not so few that you could say it isn't a word. Seems like both are fine from the descriptive perspective. I would also be inclined to doubt (on descriptive grounds) any dictionary's claim that the two words have different connotations — can those really be observed in the words' usages?

  5. The OED has “vacuousness” used in 1648 by W. Montague, whose Devout Essays included the passage “In that vacuousness the winds and vapors of tediousness and displicence rise.”

    The winds and vapors seem pretty appropriate.

    “Displicence” as a synonym for displeasure or dissatisfaction was documented by the OED as late as 1736.

  6. Speaking of winds and vapors, this Administration (in contrast to the previous one) fails to appreciate jokes involving farts. Just one more failure of Team Obama to use all the tools at its disposal.

  7. One wonders why Mr. 1648 Montagu didn't use 'vacuum'? Was it still a scientific term? Too Latinate? But surely 'vacuousness' is Latinate itself, along with 'vapor', and 'displicience'. Euphony with tediousness?

    Or was he pushing 50 and just have a brain cramp?

Comments are closed.