Love for Words — Desultory
December 6, 2016
___ Desultory is an adjective that refers to motion that leaps from one entity to another.
‘Tis named via a talented equestrian performer at circuses.
Via Webster’s New World dictionary:
1. passing from one thing to another in an aimless way; disconnected; not methodical: a desultory conversation
2. lacking direct relevance; random; incidental: a desultory observation
Via Online Etymology Dictionary:
adjective form of desultor (n.) “a rider in the circus who jumps from one horse to another while they are in gallop”
Animation behind the origin
The “desultor” performance has been part of circus performances for centuries, and some take part in performances to this day.
For example, as late as December 2013, desultors were among performers at the “Noble Horse Theatre” in Chicago. The theatre featured equestrian performances.
The desultors stood tall, and straight upon the stallions they placed foot. The stallions persisted in full gallop as the desultor, at choreographed times with the music, leapt from one horse to another.
A conversation may seem “desultory” as the participants leap from one subject to the next. A person’s career path may seem desultory as they leap from one vocation to another.
While something “desultory” suggests lack of straight path or lack of focus, it also suggests action behind the desultoriness vs. inaction. Someone leading a desultory conversation may do so because of active thoughts vs. trying to find something to say. A person on a desultory career path may be actively moving from one job to another, vs. losing jobs and taking what comes along.
What are times you find yourself in a desultory conversation?
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