Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Word for Today: Otiose

Pronunciation[oh-shee-ohs, oh-tee-] –adjective
1. being at leisure; idle; indolent.
2. ineffective or futile.
3. superfluous or useless. [Origin: 1785–95; <>

—Related forms o·ti·ose·ly, adverb o·ti·os·i·ty
Pronunciation[oh-shee-os-i-tee, oh-tee-]
Pronunciation, o·ti·ose·ness, noun

—Synonyms 1. lazy, slothful. 2. idle, vain, profitless. 3. redundant, worthless, pointless.

Otiose is from Latin otiosus, "idle, at leisure," from otium, "leisure."

From Dictionary.com

Mr. Federspiel's surreal flourishes and commentaries straddle the line between interesting and otiose. Most of the surrealism is pretty but pointless.
-- D. F. Wallace, "The Million-Dollar Tattoo", New York Times, May 5, 1991

Although the wild outer movements and the angular Minuet can take such clockwork precision, the Andante, with its obsessive, claustrophobic dialogues between strings and bassoons, seemed sluggish and otiose.
-- Tim Ashley, "VPO/Maazel", The Guardian, April 16, 2002

The umlaut he affected, which made no difference to the pronunciation of his name, was as otiose as a pair of strategically positioned beauty spots.
-- Peter Conrad, "Hidden shallows", New Statesman, October 14, 2002

One hazard for religions in which all professional intermediaries are dispensed with, and in which the individual is enjoined to 'work out your own salvation' and is regarded as fully capable of doing so, is that belief and practice become independent of formal organized structures which may in such a context come to be perceived as otiose.
-- Lorne L. Dawson, "The Cultural Significance of New Religious Movements: The Case of Soka Gakkai", Sociology of Religion, Fall 2001

Some of the terms which lawyers reach for have their origins in historical legal distinctions; some reflect the dual use of legal French and legal English five or six hundred years ago. Sometimes "legal pairs" just trip off a lawyer's tongue -- or pen, at any rate. Even lawyers who would not dream of telling a client that they have "made and entered into" an agreement, or that something is a "good and sufficient" reason for fighting the case, may still inform their clients that an agreement would be "null and Void" or " each and every" partner must be a "fit and proper" person to run a business.

The golden rule is to use one word rather than two wherever possible. And is isn't just legal terms that you should bear in mind. Consider the following:
Would you be good enough to ...
We should be grateful if you would ..
We would ask that you ...

As Margot Costanzo points out, what is wrong with "please"?

Similarly, "in respect of", "in connection with", "in relation to", "with regard to" could all be replaced by the word "about" or cut altogether.

However, there is one exception to this golden rule of one word,not two: old and middle English "portmanteau" words. These are words such as: howsoever, whosoever, hereby, herein, hereunder, herewith, therein, thereby -- and so on. Avoid these. Even if you can justify them in your formal drafting of wills, pleadings, leases, contracts and other formal legal documents -- and we are not convinced that they are justifiable even with that context -- they have no place in legal writing. There is never a good reason why any of these words should appear in your writing. They are simply not necessary. Or, as one lawyer to another, they are otiose, nugatory and to be avoided.

--- Fio Boyle et al, "A Practical Guide to Lawyering Skills "

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