Having finally finished up my last papers of Year 1 of grad school (and my, what a year it’s been), I thought I’d do a post on subtle distinctions in the same word that, due to slang, gains a new connotation. That’s a little wordy; let me try again. I’m going to make the case that there are differences in kind, not in degree, of words that, at first glance, appear to be of the same kind and having a difference in degree. Still too wordy? One word means one thing, another word means another thing, and the two, while similar, are not the same. Hmm, I’m not sure I’ve written this clearly enough, but perhaps as I go along, it’ll make sense. Basic thing to know: “ignant” and “ignorant” aren’t the same words anymore, and I’ll try to explain why I think this.
So in common parlance, people will refer to one another as “ignorant,” which (thanks to slang and modifications of pronunciation) has also become “ignant.” But these words, while beginning as the same word with alternative pronunciations (think po-tay-toe vs. po-tah-toe), have become two different words with two different definitions. Why do I think this? Common usage, yet again.
Beyond the drawl that led to the changed word from “ignorant” to “ignant,” I thought I’d go do a smidgen of research on everybody’s favorite dictionary, Urbandictionary.com. There are only 3 definitions provided for “ignant” – 1) The ignorant way of saying ignorant. 2) Proudly and willfully ignorant; using one’s ignorance as a virtue. 3) Slang for ignorant. So Urban Dictionary has provided us with the most common background for “ignant” – it’s either a mispronunciation of ignorant or it’s got a particular definition that many would take in a negative light. I’m throwing out definitions 1 and I agree with definition 2 being one definition of “ignant.” I’m going to throw out another definition in just a moment, but it’ll be with respect to the definition of “ignorant.”
And as a quick sidenote, I’ve been called ignant many times and ignorant many times, but mostly in jest. It’s from this standpoint that I’m adopting this definition of “ignant,” that there’s an intentionally humorous side to ignorance and that’s where “ignant” can come in as a word to explain this particular phenomenon.
“Ignorant” means lacking knowledge (Dictionary.com). I think this definition is the one most of us are used to. Granted, there’s a seriously derogatory connotation with ignorance, and it’s one I don’t think needs to be associated with the word. We’re all ignorant about something, right? I’m ignorant regarding quantum physics and more than likely will be for the remainder of this lifetime. But I don’t think this is the ignorance people refer to…perhaps the ignorance being referred to can be more aptly described as “offensive ignorance.” This tends to come out in social norms and cultural respect and things of that nature. Where one’s literal ignorance can be hurtful, or (and this is probably the real meaning) where even though a person actually knows better, s/he chooses to remain willfully ignorant. This is the ignorance that we endeavor to avoid when it comes to the above question: are you ignant or ignorant? If ignorant here is “offensive ignorance,” then let’s call “ignant” a non-offensive ignorance that is humorous, normally intentionally.
Here are a couple examples of ignance in action: my Mom at a recent kiddie birthday party saw that all of the toys the kids got were made in China, which prompted her to exclaim, “The whole world is made in China.” That could be an example of ignance in action. This video of Elmo telling a baby “Fuck You” is also highly ignant – but the reaction many of us would have is a shocking reaction that makes us laugh. Ignance is a form of absurdity that’s generally not offensive; it’s just so absurd that you’re shocked but you can’t help BUT to laugh at it. A third example of ignance in action was from a friend of mine who was buying salmon. The salmon went for $22.00 a pound, which is a lot of money. She asked why it was so expensive, the man selling it told her it was imported from Alaska. She responded by saying, “Yeah, but there’s oil in the water right now so I think there should be a discount!” Is she aware that the oil spill is in the Gulf and not in Alaskan waters? Yes, she is. That’s why it’s even more absurd! It’s a manipulation of ignorance that produces comedic results!
In my old Top Ten Lists, I’m sure I was a picture of ignance. Most of them were so absurd you were shocked then laughed in a simultaneous fit of sorts. One of the best/worst comments I’ve ever made surrounded Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and what’s left of them (no, it’s not anything good). I made the comment because it was outrageous and designed for humor in its outrageousness. That’s the beauty of ignance – it’s just comedy.
It’s fitting that I wrap this post up on my birthday. Truthfully, I don’t think being called ignorant is a compliment unless it’s supposed to mean ignant and it’s in this idea of ignance as a tongue-in-cheek ignorance for humorous effects. Do yourself a favor – get a little ignant every now and then. It’s good for you.