“Well, that was otiose.”
Maury and I had come into a building and taken an elevator up one floor. Then we had walked down the hall and found ourselves taking a ramp back down a half a floor. Meeting it at the level we were heading to was a ramp up a half a floor from where we had gotten on the elevator.
“Odious, in fact,” I said.
“But was it Otis?”
“An otiose detail. Any make of elevator would have been equally irrelevant.”
Perhaps I should explain otiose for those who know it not. It means ‘without practical result; futile; pointless’. It comes from Latin otioisus ‘at leisure, unemployed, ineffectual, inactive, without issue’, from otium ‘leisure, peace, freedom, lack of business’. Otiose is a negative term, but otium – a word rarely used in English – names something we value.
We walked on. “It’s not as though we’re in a hurry, mind you,” Maury said. “We have plenty of time.”
“Ample otium,” I said. “The pleasure of leisure.”
“Tainted by the odium of the otiose.”
Maury stopped walking and looked at me; I stopped because he stopped. “All of this doesn’t work,” he said, “for those who pronounce it ‘o-she-owes’ rather than ‘o-tee-owes.’”
“Utterly otiose,” I said. But I said the s as [s], not as [z] like Maury. And yet all the variations are equally acceptable. “Atra-otiose,” I said, with the “she” pronunciation (a reference to atrabilious). “Atrocious.”
We started walking again and arrived shortly at the door we sought. It was closed. It announced the professor’s office hours. They did not include the time of our arrival.
“I have an issue with this,” I said.
“I find it without issue,” Maury parried.
“We should have checked ahead of time.”
“Ah, but we did not, and we came afoot, and found it a waist of time.”
We started walking back and came soon to the up-down ramp split.
“Well,” Maury said, gesturing towards the upward ramp, “shall we take the elevator down?”