It is a popular thing, in corporate environments, when an egomaniacal fool does not get sufficient toadying from his underlings (because they were hired by people who, for whatever reason, chose them for their qualifications to do the job), to hire constultants who will constult with the top dog and his nearest puppies and make grandiose plans in exchange for ludicrously lucrative sums.

No, I made no typographical errors. Yes, yes, consultants and consult could have worked there. But I had a point to make. And I’m not the first to make it thus. The Oxford English Dictionary has two citations in support of constult and both of them are plays on consult. One is from a John Taylor, in 1630: “Some English Gentlemen with him consulted And he as nat’rally with them constulted.” The other is from a John Gauden in 1660: “What do they meet, and sit, and consult (or rather constult) together?”

Well, OK, we get the idea. Except we don’t, unless we know stult. Of course we all know stultify and stultifying (the latter an adjective often applied to the experience of listening to consultants). But we tend to think of stultifying as like stupefying without pausing to think what those roots mean. Um, dulling, mind-numbing? Well, yes, in the sense of making like someone who is dull or numb of mind. Stupefying is related to stupid. But the Latin source for stultifyingstultus – never made it into English.

So what is stultus? ‘Foolish’. Also ‘fatuous’ and ‘stupid’ and ‘ill-considered’ and a whole lot of other words and phrases we have in English for the same thing (“dumb as a sack of hammers” and “couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the heel” are two I learned in my Albertan youth). The Latin word traces back to a Proto-Indo-European root meaning ‘stiff’. Related words include strenuous, stolid, sterile, torpid, stare, and stereo (which comes from a Greek root meaning ‘solid’, extended to ‘three-dimensional’ and from that to binocular vision and binaural hearing, both of which are wasted on people who are strenuously stolid and staringly torpid).

So OK, this is going on a bit. The tl;dr of it is that the verb constult, supposedly no longer used (but ha! just watch me), means ‘be foolish together’. And the reason I took so long to get to that is… well, I’m getting paid by the minute.*

*I pay myself. Zero cents a minute. It’s not quite $20,000 a day, but I guess I could say it was, since it all zeroes out in the end.

2 responses to “constult

  1. Of course we all known
    … typo?

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