Wednesday, April 11, 2007


This is another archival post, and one of my favorites as well. Nescience.

Quite honestly, I never heard this word before, and that intrigues me. Nescience has a unique enough pronounciation that I don't automatically associate it with anything else. It's got "science" which is the knowledge part, but the "ne", doesn't leap out to me that it is negative prefix (unlike "un" "in" or "de" or just plain "not). Its Latin origins of "nescire" allegedly for "not" "to know" don't help either. So, given this word on the SATs, I probably would have gotten the answer wrong, and that intrigues me all the more. Her nescience on the derivation of the word nescience ensured that she would miss the question? His nescience on how a woman would respond to his plebian pick up line guaranteed that he would never have a first date. I wonder if it would apply to tangible knowledge rather than abstract concepts. His nescience on how to set up the TiVo despite the explicit instructions in the manual, which he stubbornly refused to read, meant that they were always tethered to watching prime time TV live? Seems a bit overkill. Her nescience about the ceiling collapse of the Big Dig stunned her listeners? Or her nescience about a recent Supreme Court opinion in her area of practice caused her to be fired? Maybe. I think nescience would best be paired with a lack of understanding or lack of knowledge of something that is supposed to be well, or at least widely, known, unless you really wanted to elevate the knowledge that the person doesn't understand for emphasis (i.e., raising the failure to know how to plug something in compared to knowledge of the problems of world hunger, as if to say everyone else but you knows how to plug in a TiVo). I'll have to mull this word over some more. Her nescience about standard choral music while being in one of the premiere choruses in the country continued to cause amusement and a bit of condescention from her fellow choresters. Nescience. Interesting. Has possibilities.

Ok, time to go do something less scholarly, like catch up on reading
Variety and The New Yorker so I have less nescience. Still sounds like it should be an adjective to me, even though that's nescient... I'll keep working on it.

1 comment:

Cara said...

All of the examples in WOTD appear to be in cases where science really is the opposite, or rather where scientific knowledge is the type implied lacking. So I think the usage should be for a lack of understanding rather than lack of awareness of something specific or trivial. But that's just from the three examples in your link.