Dell’s Inanity Is Not Insanity, Just Frustrating


PlayI came across today’s word in David Pogue’s New York Times Circuits email newsletter. The word is inanity. When I first read it I suspected it was a typo; that Pogue meant insanity. As the author of many typos I was quite excited to find a typo in a New York Times article.

Alas, inanity is a word. It is an noun meaning total lack of meaning, or or as Merriam-Webster puts it, “the quality or state of being inane.” Something that is inane lacks a point or significance.

Pogue’s article is about the pluses and minuses of Dell’s tech support. He writes:

“And even though they’re scripted to the point of inanity, the overseas reps have twice helped me, too, resolve problems to my satisfaction (including the time my hard drive died, and Dell replaced it at no charge).

You can see how the word insanity could fit in there too. But I think Pogue’s diction is more appropriate because the tech support questions often seem unrelated not crazy.

A side note about Pogue: he suffers from carpel tunnel damage so he uses speech-to-text to avoid irritating his condition, so I should have known the only typos to be found in his work would be incorrect diction not misspellings.

No, I Have not Fallen into an Oubliette


podcast-logo.pngOubliette, this word popped up on two sites in one day so I had to include it in a podcast.

Oubliette, as you can probably tell from the sound of oubliette is a French noun. An oubliette is a dungeon or cave with only an opening at the top. A hole in the ground could be an oubliette. A trap door in the floor may lead to an oubliette.

Of the two pages that brought oubliette to my attention, the first, at, used oubliette on its 404- page-not-found error page. I clicked on a broken link and was served this creative and polite prose:


You have fallen into a hole. You find yourself in a small stone room. The only exit appears to be the hole which you fell through, now far above you in the ceiling. There is straw scattered on the cold, cobbled floor. The darkness of this cell seems to swallow up the thin shaft of light falling from above.

A voice from the shadows says “404”. However, before you scream in terror or allow a soul destroying malaise to settle upon you like the dust of ages (what? it already has?), let me hand you a ladder. You see, I’ve rejigged this site and now the walls and doors and such are in all different places. hosts a “Getting Things Done” to do list manager. The second page is closely related, it is an article by Merlin Mann hosted at, a site dedicated to the “Getting Things Done” way of organizing and managing your life. The article “Dr. Contextlove or: “How I stopped worrying and learned to love iCal” describes Mr. Mann’s particular technique for using the Kinkless GTD system to organize his time and tasks. Oubliette is used by Mann to describe where the task he forgets to complete end up; in a dark hole with only one way out.

Oubliette comes from the French verb oublier meaning “to forget.” As in,”put him in oubliette and forget about him.”

According to Wikipedia, and oubliette is also

“used to refer to ice formations over lakes or other large bodies of water. As ice crystals formed, and air was introduced in the movement of the tides, tunnels would form under the ice.”

Happy Millionth Wikipedia!


Today, March 1st, 2006, the one millionth English article was published at Wikipedia by Ewan Macdonald.

From the Jordanhill Railway Station article:

The Jordanhill Railway Station is a suburban railway station in the Jordanhill area on the west side of Glasgow, Scotland. The station (code “JOR”), which is governed by Transport Scotland and managed by First ScotRail, lies on the Argyle Line and the North Clyde Line. It is located near the Jordanhill Campus of the University of Strathclyde and the Jordanhill School and sits atop Crow Road, an important western thoroughfare in Glasgow and the main route to the Clyde Tunnel. The station is five stops and eleven minutes journey time from Central Glasgow.

Congratulations! Wikipedia is clearly the most comprehensive English language encyclopedia. Putting questions about accuracy aside it is probably the deepest and widest research collection ever assembled in any language.

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Millionth Wikipedia Entry