Brave New Word

2 comments August 17th, 2007at 05:37pm Posted by Eli

I’ve inspired a new word!

You’ve probably seen this happen – or, if you’re less lucky, been the person it happened to. A group of people are standing around discussing some topic where either expertise or native intelligence make them all pretty conversant on the subject. Suddenly, one person pipes up with what he clearly thinks is a profound insight, an important observation. The others smile awkwardly, perhaps exchanging quick meaningful looks, and attempt to steer the conversation elsewhere. In the most embarrassing cases, the person who offered the observation is convinced that the full import of his insight can’t have been understood, and insists upon pressing it again and again. What’s actually happened, though, is that the person has outed himself as desperately behind the curve by offering the very opposite of an insight: some utterly elementary point that everyone else had taken for granted as a premise of the conversation, and indeed, one too obvious to be worth stating among (so they had thought) other reasonably bright and informed people. It’s an odd case of making oneself look bad, not by saying something wrong or false, but by saying something too clearly true. Because it simultaneously evokes “outing,” “on the outs,” and the contrast with “insight,” I decided I’d go with “outsight” as the name for this. So, formally…

outsight, n: A statement believed by the person who utters it to be an important or profound insight, but which is in fact regarded by its audience as so obvious or elementary that it reveals the speaker as hopelessly ignorant or slow-witted, at least relative to the relevant group.

If it weren’t for outsights, I would be completely ‘sightless.

(h/t The Opinionator)

Entry Filed under: Uncategorized

2 Comments

  • 1. ellroon  |  August 17th, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    Excellent. I have had outsights many times, usually announced in a loud voice at a party. Haven’t figured out why….

  • 2. Spear and Magic  |  August 17th, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    I have a new word that I have coined rather than inspired. (I hope I have never committed the act, but you don’t always know when you have done it.)

    purse-call, n.: a telephone call wherein the dialing party does not realize that a phone call has been made and the call remains active until such time as the calling party realizes the error or the phone shuts off. Usually made when the speed-dial or redial buttons on a cell phone is inadvertently depressed, as when the phone is jostled in a purse.

    Also a correlative verb.

    I have been purse-called a remarkable number of times, including once from Wrigley Field. I end up shouting or whistling or generally making a ruckus in order to try to get the attention of the caller, and this sometimes leads to sit-com caliber hilarity.


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