Several weeks ago, Chicago had a night of record-setting rainfall. Although there wasn’t any sort of widespread flooding, the seven inches of precipitation which poured down in just a few hours caused flash-flooding of streets which no one had ever seen fill up before. Across Chicagoland, everything from airport tarmacs to restaurant drive-through lanes turned into swamps.
That evening, I was driving home at about three in the morning. It was still raining hard. After plowing through numerous pools of standing water nearly a foot deep, I pulled into a gas station. As I filled my car, a couple of waterlogged young men went into the gas station and asked the clerk for directions. They wanted to know how far away a given street was. When I was done gassing up, I asked them—out of pity—where it was they were bound. They provided the name of a street about four miles from where we were then. And, they noted, they’d been walking for hours already from Wrigleyville, another four or five miles in the opposite direction.
“Our friends told us we could just walk over there,” they said, referring to their destination, eight or nine miles from where they’d begun.
“What?!” I replied. “What kind of fatuous” (FATCH’ew’us) “friends are these?!”
“We’re drunk,” explained the one soggy sap.
The men were definitely drunk, and I elected to help them on their ill-advised trek across the suburbs.
Fatuous, as we see above, refers to something which is foolish or inane, and usually so in a complacent or subconscious manner. Thus, if someone makes an absurd suggestion and thinks it perfectly reasonable, or tends to comment in ways that are just ridiculous—but not realize it—they are fatuous.
Examples include the airline passenger who, upon coming to suspect engine trouble, says with smug confidence, “Well, if the engines quit, we can always use the parachutes and jump” or your classmate who honestly thinks it’s a wise idea to have a study group and a party at the same time. Both would be fatuous suggestions. These are instances when it is appropriate to raise your eyebrow and say, “Yeah, right” or perhaps just roll your eyes and walk away.
Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs. Mark is an editor for The Jet Fuel Review and Blog. He is an Aviation major, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer. Mark is a sophomore and works a few hours a week as a tutor in the Writing Center in this school year.