[Ads-l] "obtuse" = 'obscure', 'vague', 'reticent'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Sep 18 00:45:51 UTC 2017

Besides its earlier meaning of ‘stupid, dense’, “obtuse” has for some time been used to denote something more along the lines of ‘stubborn’, perhaps influenced by ‘obstinate’. ( But it’s also been showing up in contexts where the meaning is closer to ‘obscure’, possibly influenced by “abstruse” and/or by a transfer between the two senses of “dense”, as suggested by Ben and other contributors to this exchange on the eggcorn forum:


But while the contribution of “abstruse” may be relevant for some of the examples discussed in that thread and in other online forums—e.g for difficult-to-understand scientific theories or difficult-to-connect-with music—I just heard a use on TV in which a football commentator noted that Minnesota Vikings’ coach Mike Zimmer (no relation to Ben) was being “obtuse” in not providing details on the injury status of his quarterback Sam Bradford.  No doubt there’s a confusion between “obtuse” and “obscure” here, but I doubt “abstruse” is playing a role.  Don’t know how common this use is.

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