You impertinent ragamuffin!

Why is it that “pertinent” means “relevant”, but “impertinent” means “sassy”? Shouldn’t “impertinent” mean “irrelevant”? Are these two words actually etymologically unrelated?

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Da Chef

Impertinent also means irrelevant. My dictionary doesn’t say, but I would imagine that the drift towards the new meaning would be because persons making irrelvant comments would do so rudely, so calling them “impertinent” caused the word to gain the meaing of insolent as well. Just my WAG.

Impertinent has been used to describe argument, issues, and actions as irrelevant, or lacking in appropriateness since Chaucer. The same period of time shows a parallel use of impertinent to describe a person themselves as lacking in relevance, or importance. The gradual growth of the description of the person includes the implication that the person’s words lack importance, and the person is therefore lacking in respect for the speaker, who presumes his own relevance

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From Merriam Webster, Definition 1.

Main Entry: im·per·ti·nent
Pronunciation: (")im-'p&r-t&n-&nt, -'p&rt-n&nt
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin impertinent-, impertinens, from Latin in- + pertinent-, pertinens, present participle of pertinEre to pertain
Date: 14th century
1 : not pertinent : IRRELEVANT
2 a : not restrained within due or proper bounds especially of propriety or good taste <impertinent curiosity> b : given to or characterized by insolent rudeness <an impertinent answer>

  • im·per·ti·nent·ly adverb
    synonyms IMPERTINENT, OFFICIOUS, MEDDLESOME, INTRUSIVE, OBTRUSIVE mean given to thrusting oneself into the affairs of others. IMPERTINENT implies exceeding the bounds of propriety in showing interest or curiosity or in offering advice <resented their impertinent interference>. OFFICIOUS implies the offering of services or attentions that are unwelcome or annoying <officious friends made the job harder>. MEDDLESOME stresses an annoying and usually prying interference in others’ affairs <a meddlesome landlord>. INTRUSIVE implies a tactless or otherwise objectionable thrusting into others’ affairs <tried to be helpful without being intrusive>. OBTRUSIVE stresses improper or offensive conspicuousness of interfering actions <expressed an obtrusive concern for his safety>.

Well, there’s flammable and inflammable, which both mean the same thing.

And then, a continent is like Europe or South America, while incontinent is … um… not directly related in meaning.

A ragamuffin is a rutabaga baked into a small pastry like a cupcake.

Nothing I write about any person or group should be applied to a larger group.

  • Boris Badenov

No, Boris… A ragamuffin is a muffin with dredlocks!

Yer pal,

Actually I think that would be a rastamuffin, Satan. A ragamuffin is a muffin that likes traditional music from India.

Anyway, youse guys, I KNOW that “irrelevant” is one of the official definitions of “impertinent.” However, I have NEVER heard the word used in this way; it is so inextricably bound up with the connotation “sassy” that to use it in the context of relevance would serve only to confuse people. Better to say “not pertinent.”

Frankly, I find the etymological chain of “not relevant” to “disrespectful/sassy” (perhaps you’ve noticed that I like to say, “sassy!”) to be suspect. I don’t see any clear connection, and the ones advanced here are kind of reaching if you ask me.

As unca Cece once said in a column: People, I am not interested in your freaking opinions; I want facts.

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Da Chef

I use impertinant almosy exclusively as meaning irrelavant.

Hows that for pissing on a assertion?

Hmmmmrrph. Usually when a thread gets dumped into MPSIMS they at least tell you. I had to find out the hard way.

Uh…disregard that remark, please. My only explanation for not knowing what forum I was in is that this cold medication is REALLY powerful.

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Da Chef