Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Sunday, July 19, 2015



1.  an obsolete word for useful

     To logicians, the word "utile" is hardly obsolete.  Nor is that a comprehensive definition.  It means, literally, "full of use(s)", as in "frequently employed for a variety of purposes." 

     To wit, if your home were about to go up in flames a fire extinguisher would certainly be useful.  Handy.  If that is its only purpose, though, it isn't considered "utile", even if you battle conflagrations with it every day.

     A Swiss Army knife has a number of various applications.  If it languishes in our drawer all of our lives, though, it isn't considered "utile".  Yes, it is useful, but only in theory.

     Let me cite an albeit crude example.  Suppose you decide to take salads to work for your lunch.  For a dollar or two you buy bowls like the one pictured here.  You mix in your dressing before going to work but the texture is unsatisfactory.  Plan B:  dressing on the side.  This works for a few days but carrying a separate container is inconvenient. 

     Buying salads at a restaurant or cafeteria is expensive and, perhaps, unpalatable.  While walking past a kiosk you spot the apparent solution to your problem:

     Brilliant!  A bowl with an insert at the top for a dressing canister!  All self-contained!  Just to be safe, you buy a few extras.  Toss a plastic fork into your lunch box and you're good to go!

     The satisfaction lasts a week or so.  Perhaps without a concrete, apparent reason, you lose enthusiasm and give up on your veggie lunches.

     What happened?

     Chances are good the hassle of remembering disposable utensils contributed to the loss of enthusiasm.  Maybe one broke, leaving you high and dry.

     As the picture to the right illustrates, something was missing from your kit:  a durable knife and fork that attaches to the box itself (along with a dressing vial).  In short, the two bowls above were insufficiently utile.  Lacking utility.  Inutile.

     If poetry's only purpose were to bore people with attempts to show how clever or profound we are it would be inutile.  Nobody would read it.

     Oh, wait...

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