Writing for Business

Mar 25 2013   12:13PM GMT

There’s a word for it: The spiteful behavior of objects

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
My computer kept rebooting, Siri kept mocking me, and the printer was emitting nothing but a low mechanical drone and the occasional beep. It seemed that all the devices in my study had been infected with ______________.
a. resistentialism
b. nidulation
c. curmurring

Answer: a.

File this one under “Words to Ressurect.” Resistentialism is defined in Paul Hellweg’s Insomniac’s Dictionary as the “seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects.” Surely, that’s not a word that we should retire. With the proliferation of devices and their frequent nasty turns, you’d think that we’d need it more than ever.

The British humorist Paul Jennings coined the term for a spoof on existentialism that was published in The Spectator in April 1948.

The Oxford English Dictionary says resistentialism is a “mock philosophy which maintains that inanimate objects are hostile to humans” created from the Latin res, meaning thing(s), and French résister, meaning to resist, with existentialism.

Charles Harrington Elster wrote about resistentialism in the New York Times:

Although Jennings coined the word in jest, I must object to Oxford’s dubbing resistentialism a “mock philosophy.” There is nothing mock or sham about it, as anyone who has ever had to call a plumber on a Sunday morning to unclog a refractory toilet will attest.

Resistentialism is featured in the Obsolete Word of the Day blog.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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