Word of the Week: Obdurate


So, avuncular (unclelike), saturnine (sluggish), sybaritic (pleasure-loving), antediluvian (primitive), concomitant (accompanying), uxorious (fawning), lucubrate (laborious studying), vulpine (foxlike), fissiparous (fractious), skeuomorph (look it up yourself) and how about …obdurate?

After a few weeks in the tall grass of Internet dictionaries, I propose a return to the comforting hearth-smoke of Webster’s Fourth and my sturdy, handwritten cards of vocabulary words. Obdurate (AHB-der-itt), an adjective, from the Latin obduratus (to harden), is defined as “not easily moved to pity or sympathy; hardhearted.” It is snug in the pages of my dictionary between obcordate, an adjective for leaf-loving botanists that means “heart-shaped and joined to the stem at the apex,” and O.B.E., an abbreviation for Order of the British Empire.

The adverb, naturally, is obdurately, and some wags think you can swing a verb out of the deal, especially if you draw out the last syllable into an “ate.” (Mitt Romney’s bumbling political style has obdurated me against him forever.) But Webster’s Fourth does not agree, and I think you end up sounding like a member of the O.B.E. For the noun form, go with obduracy over obdurateness or obduration or anything else.

Anyway, that is fun, right? Such a useful word. So many applications, probably some of them sitting not too far from you in the office.

Really, though, I picked this word because of its delicious versatility. The succeeding alternative definitions are “2, hardened and unrepenting; impenitent,” and “3, not giving in readily; stubborn; obstinate; inflexible.” Obstinate! Impenitent! Like the opposite of Indiana Jones’s penitent man. (Chop!)

Now. To be honest, I had a mind to pick callipygian, an adjective, meaning “having shapely buttocks,” partly in response to the choice of uxorious that was imposed on me some weeks ago. But I obdurately stuck to my guns. (Get it?)

Anyway, a Google search for callipygian is a M.N.S.F.W. misadventure in Kim Kardashian articles. Obdurate is far more durable. Observe:

  • From The Daily News! “More than 75 percent of MPs are in favor of parliament functioning normally but the BJP is being ‘obdurate and stubborn’ in holding up proceedings over the coal blocks allocation, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said Monday.”
  • The Financial Times! “Egregious recent examples of bad corporate governance suggest that some very old governance chestnuts remain as obdurate as ever.”
  • The Irish Post! “We’ve seen his side take commanding leads in both games but, obdurate as ever, Kilkenny have always charged back at them.”



On Charity and Mitt Romney

Giving away almost a third of your annual income sounds laudable, but for someone of Mitt Romney’s wealth, charity should be assessed by net worth, not income. The Romneys’ net worth is currently estimated at $250 million. $4 million is just 1.6% of that net worth.

via How generous is Mitt Romney? | Ben Walsh.

Not for nothing, but…

…one of the five pillars of Islam is something called Zakat, which is basically a guide for knowing how much you should give away to charity. It is something that is expected of every Muslim who has the means; the Koran mentions it over and over.

This is not as simple as the medieval Christian tithe. There is a fairly complex system for assessing a person’s Zakat; different kinds of wealth are treated differently. (You can figure your own here.) But at the risk of oversimplifying it, the Zakat works out to about 2.5 percent of your net worth.

I dunno what Mormons are supposed to do.

Your Thursday Same-Sex Marriage Reader

John Lauber, a soft-spoken new student one year behind Romney, was perpetually teased for his nonconformity and presumed homosexuality. Now he was walking around the all-boys school with bleached-blond hair that draped over one eye …followed them to a nearby room where they came upon Lauber, tackled him and pinned him to the ground. As Lauber, his eyes filling with tears, screamed for help, Romney repeatedly clipped his hair with a pair of scissors.

via Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall pranks, but also troubling incidents – The Washington Post.

Those who do not want to let gay partners have the sacredness of sacramental marriage are relying on a Scholastic fiction of the thirteenth century to play with people’s lives, as the church has done ever since the time of Aquinas.

via The Myth About Marriage by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

…even though marriage licenses are issued by states, federal marriage policy is extensive. The federal government has special tax rules for married people. It gives spouses rights and responsibilities under programs like Social Security. It offers benefits to the spouses of its several million employees. And it confers citizenship on foreigners based on their marriages to U.S. citizens.

via Whether Obama Likes It Or Not, Gay Marriage Is a Federal Issue – Forbes.

…what the president thinks about gay marriage is, ultimately, symbolic. There is a different issue on which Obama could achieve real, tangible results for gays and lesbians, and gain electoral advantage over Mitt Romney: employment discrimination.

via The gay-rights cause Obama can actually do something about | The Great Debate.

“My problem was not so much with God,” he writes, “as with increasing disbelief in religion’s claim to possess precise information about his opinions, including his sexual and gender preferences.”

via Caspar Melville – The passion of the bishop | New Humanist.

Stephen King Loves the F-Word

Mitt Romney has said, in effect, “I’m rich and I don’t apologize for it.” Nobody wants you to, Mitt. What some of us want—those who aren’t blinded by a lot of bullshit persiflage thrown up to mask the idea that rich folks want to keep their damn money—is for you to acknowledge that you couldn’t have made it in America without America.

via Stephen King: Tax Me, for F@%&’s Sake! – The Daily Beast.

Those Are Some Balls

One colleague called him an “evil genius,” another called him “a cobra,” and Nixon said that he “would do anything. He’s got the balls of a brass monkey.”

via David Greenberg: In Remembrance Of A Lifelong Political Thug | The New Republic.

Quelle Horreur

“Almost all French people go to McDonalds every now and then, but unlike the Americans, who go there at any time of day, the French mostly go at set times, between noon and two, and after seven in the evening.”

via BBC News – The changing face of French lunchtimes.

The Heaves of Desperation

…debates have been hit-and-miss for all the candidates and have often shaken up the polls in one direction or another. That kind of high-volatility outcome is exactly what a losing candidate should be pursuing, just as a team that trails late in a basketball game is correct to start trying to shoot more 3-pointers.

via In Need of a Game Change, Santorum Plays Small Ball – NYTimes.com.

Politics of Suicide

“Parties want to be optimally extreme,” Zaller says. “They are like the frequent air traveller who believes that if he never misses a flight he is getting to the airport too soon.”

via Rick Santorum vs. Mitt Romney: Can the G.O.P. save itself? : The New Yorker.

‘That’s Got to Tell You Something’

“Gov. Romney, with all of the money advantages that any candidate could ever want, I mean huge money advantages, has still not been able to close the deal. Thats got to tell you something,” Santorum said.

via The Associated Press: Santorum: Romney has failed to close the deal.

close the deal The act of meeting somone and engaging in sexual intercourse within the same night. I met her at the party and before I knew it I was closing the deal in the coat room.

via Urban Dictionary: close the deal.