C’est de l’ergoterie!

Ce n’est pas un argument, c’est de l’ergoterie!

snay pah uh naar-gew-mah, sayd lair-guh-TREE! Click below to hear this.*

That’s not an argument, it’s quibbling!

Your friend loves to argue, but you don’t think much of the arguments he makes. They are specious, false, petty, misguided. Not to mention that he brings up the same quibbles over and over.

This is what you say to him when you get tired of listening to him.

Ergoter takes us all the way back to the medieval scholastic philosophers, who were famous for their elaborate (and passionate) arguments about such topics as how many angels could dance in the head of a pin. They addressed these momentous discussions in Latin, and took their logic seriously. So they must have said ergo quite a bit, Latin for therefore. It follows (logically) that a verb should have been constructed on that stem, so as to talk about people who talk about such senseless topics. And l’ergoterie, of course, is the practice of dwelling on these things.

In fact, you will often encounter the verb in the expression ergoter sur des vétilles, which literally means to quibble about ribbons. Why ribbons? Because they are mere shreds of fabric, a very minor element in the adornment of a person’s costume.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:


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