Word: obtuse

Pronunciation: əb-T(Y)OOS / ahb-T(Y)OOS

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Tails: What luck! This rock would make a perfect focusing lens for my hyper-exo-madifier! All I need is a refracting chamber and an influx reflector! Right, Knuckles?

Knuckles: Do you use big words just to make me feel… um… what’s that word that means ‘not smart’?

Tails: Obtuse?

Knuckles: Yeah, see? That’s what I’m talking about.

Sonic Boom (Season 1, Episode 31 – Closed Door Policy)

Okay, so maybe I watch Cartoon Network once in a while just to unwind, and maybe I’ve gotten a little hooked on the newest Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon. But that’s not really important. The point to focus on now is this week’s vocabulary word in the above dialogue from an episode of Sonic Boom. In this scene, young inventor fox Tails is going on about a complex gadget he plans to build, and the brawny but not-too-bright echidna Knuckles has a hard time keeping up with his friend’s “techno babble”. When Tails offers an uncommon definition for a slowness to understand things, Knuckles hilariously proves yet again that he’s a little too “obtuse” to grasp such big words!

An “obtuse” person is someone who is slow to understand things or is otherwise annoyingly insensitive. The word arose in late Middle English in the sense “blunt” and comes from the Latin adjective obtusus “dull”, which in turn derives from the verb obtundere, meaning “to strike”. This verb comprises the preposition ob “against” and the verb tundere “to beat”.

There are a handful of definitions for the word “obtuse”. Aside from the above meaning used for people, it can also refer to something that is difficult to comprehend or an object that is blunt as opposed to sharp-edged. Of course, anyone who paid attention during trigonometry lessons in Math class remembers that “obtuse” also defines an angle between 90º and 180º. So if you ever find yourself writing about dull people and/or objects (or even about math problems), “obtuse” may be a word you’ll want to work into your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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