Word of the Moment: obfuscate

This is especially for Sally in Norfolk, who I, some might say deliberately, confused with long words in my previous Word of the Moment post. So, in an attempt to clarify things for Sally, the current word of the moment is obfuscate 🙂

If you want to know what this means, imagine Jim Hacker has asked Sir Humphrey a question in Yes, (Prime) Minister. Sir Humphrey will launch into one of his speeches that leaves Hacker floundering as to what Sir Humphrey is on about. Some might say Sir Humphrey is master of obfuscation.

The OED Online has this to say on the matter:

1. trans. To cast into darkness or shadow; to cloud, obscure.
2. trans.
a. To dim (the sight). rare.
b. To confuse, bewilder, or stupefy (a person or his or her faculties); (also) (U.S. slang) to befuddle with alcohol, render drunk (cf. OBFUSCATED adj. 2) (now rare).
3. a. trans. Of a person: to make (a subject, etc.) unclear, obscure, confused, or difficult to understand.
b. intr. To render something unclear, obscure, or confused; to use obscure or impenetrable language.

It seems Sir Humphrey actually had some work to do to become master of obfuscation: as far as I am aware, he never dimmed the sight of anyone. I’ll let him off with the US slang meaning: he is (was) so quintessentially English, after all.

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2 thoughts on “Word of the Moment: obfuscate

  1. I love the quote “Eschew Obfuscation”.

    My other favourite is, “Never use a big word where a diminutive one will suffice.”

  2. An expansion of your first quote is “eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation” just to make matters worse.

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