Like the books I read, Wednesday Words are somewhat randomly chosen, today’s especially so.
Over the weekend, I ran across a video of the 60s Australian folk group The Seekers singing “I Know I’ll Never Find Another You.” The concert was part of their 2013 farewell tour. I have no clue how this clip entered my phone, from which it entered my consciousness, but for some reason it did. I remember the song fondly enough, but this performance struck me as not terrible, but lackluster, as sometimes happens when elderly stars sing their old hits.
If you compare the 21st century version to their original 1964 recording you’ll see what I mean. The group’s lead singer, Judith Durham, died just five months ago, and online tributes to her included clips of old performances, and you can perceive the difference. I can’t blame The Seekers for losing a little pizzazz over fifty years.
It’s just that since hearing the 2013 rendition, I’ve had the song stuck in my head. My playing it over again as I’m writing now is going to firmly implant it in my consciousness. Reflecting on why this particular ear worm is so annoying, the word insipid came to mind.
For a few minutes, the old folk song departed my brain, replaced by a question: Where does that word come from? I could tell it’s Latinate but couldn’t break it down.
Here’s the history. The Latin verb saepere, means “to taste.” Its related adjective, sapidus, means “having a taste or flavor.” You can see where this is going. The adjective metamorphosed into insipidus, that is, “without flavor,” and traveled through French—insipide–into English. Our insipid can refer to literally tasteless food but more often describes things “lacking vigor or interest,” such as, at least to me, a 2013 concert version of “I Know I’ll Never Find Another You,” playing in an endless loop in my head.
Share your ear worm antidotes in the comments.