Sunday, May 01, 2005


Theories Too Good To Check

Today's Times of London reviews the paperback edition of Lars Svendsen's The Philosophy of Boredom:

A fascinatingly modern essay on ennui and emptiness... There is possibly one sure cure for boredom,” says Svendsen, “to leave Romanticism behind and renounce all personal meaning in life.” The word boredom, he says, appeared in English only in the 1760s and its use has progressively grown. Svendsen’s thesis is so cool that boredom, linked with desire rather than need, suddenly seems like a desirable state of being in an agitated age.

1760s? Really?

I pulled down the OED from the shelf next to my desk and, sure enough, he was right. Unfortunately, the word boredom does not have a monopoly on the concept of boredom. The OED dates ennui back to 1667, and an earlier variant ennoysance to a Wynken de Worde text of 1502. Which is about, er, three centuries before Romanticism.

Oh well. Nice theory, anyway.

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