Friday, February 11, 2011

Word of the Day

The word of the day is "futile" - which, according to means:

1. having no effective result; unsuccessful

2. pointless; unimportant; trifling
3. inane or foolish

Any woman who has tried to keep a tidy house and raise children at the same time is familiar with this word.  As a matter of fact, any woman who has ever tried to keep a tidy house - period - is familiar with this word.

“Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established.” - George Carlin

Google the word and you find stories on sports, airport security, the current situation in Egypt, medical ethics, and something called "futility pruning", which involves "adding a futility margin  to the evaluation of the current position".  Wouldn't it be handy if life had a "futility margin"?  A formula into which you could plug any situation in your life and receive a numeric value representing the futility of this particular effort.  If the futiltiy margin is < X, keep plugging; > X, give it up already.

The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Your search would also reveal a poem by Wilfred Owen, which I read twice, but my attempts at understanding were futile; a book by Morgan Robertson, published fourteen years before the sinking of the Titanic, yet mirroring the fatal story in nearly every detail; and a couple movies I've never heard of, starring people I've never heard of.

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was "a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity."1

[The Gods] had thought, with some reason, that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.- Albert Camus

Even Captain Kirk met with futility in the form of The Borg, who announced "You will be assimilated.  Resistance is futile."  But The Borg didn't know who they were dealing with.  Of course, they were no match for the wits, saavy and ingenuity of James T. Kirk, so perhaps futility is not totally......well, futile.



  1. I love the etimology of words. Maybe that goes with a love of reading. Great post.
    I looked up the word "reticulated" yesterday, because I couldn't imagine a reticulated python. Seems it doesn't just mean articulated, but can also mean having the appearance of articulation in a pattern.