A cool word to use just to indicate that you're severely, extremely, totally bored. Wordnet defines it as "being bored by something tedious," but it's more than that. It's being bored because your whole life is nothing but tedium. Yesterday I was suffering from ennui. In the vain hope of entertaining myself, I took my IBM Thinkpad downstairs, with my Orinoco 802.11b card, and decided to test the effects of my microwave oven on the noise level reading of the wireless networking card. Since both use the 2.4 GHz band, and the microwave must have some leakage, something should happen, I reasoned. And something did. The noise reading occasionally jumped from -95dB to -94dB. I was not impressed.

Ennui ... it's a French kind of boredom, you see. It's rather like regular boredom, only it's got that certain je ne sais quoi.

Ennui has two meanings in French, one of which is boredom. The other is annoyance.

When meant as boredom, ennui is prefixed by the definite article, le (the, masculine form). As ennui begins with a vowel sound, the article is shortened to l' , making pronunciation smoother. The result is l'ennui, pronounced lon-WEE.

In the case of annoyance, ennui is prefixed by the indefinite article, un (a, masculine form). There is no written shortening of the article in this case, but emphasis is put on the N of un, such as that it almost becomes part of the first syllable of ennui. This is also to make pronunciation smoother in the case of a vowel sound. The result is un ennui, pronounced uhnon-WEE.

If ennui is used with a demonstrative pronoun, for example "Quel ennui!", meaning "What/such annoyance/boredom!"), it can have either meaning, which can lead to confusion and a loss of meaning in textual translation. Verbally, the meaning is generally indicated by the speaker's intonation. A whiny or desperate voice will likely mean boredom, while a serious or angry voice will tend to mean annoyance.

Ennui also has a related verb: ennuyer (on-WEE-ey), which can also have either meaning.

The verb is conjugated as follows:

First person singular, j'ennuie (jhon-WEE)
Second person singular, tu ennuies (too-on-WEE)
Third person singular masculine, il ennuie (eel-on-WEE)
Third person singular feminine, elle ennuie (el-on-WEE)
First person plural, nous ennuyons (noozon-WEE-yon. As seen with the indefinite article nous, meaning we, almost becomes part of the first syllable of the next word in order to make pronunciation smoother.)
Second person plural or singular/plural politeness form, vous ennuyez (voozon-WEE-ey)
Third person plural masculine, ils ennuient (eelzon-WEE)
Third person plural feminine, elles ennuient (elzon-WEE)

Note that certain French sounds do not exist in the English language. As such, the pronunciation is approximated using English sounds without resorting to the International Phonetic Alphabet.

From my Swiss-French point of view, there is no je-ne-sais-quoi about it other than the general fanciness that surrounds the French language. I feel it has no relation to Weltschmerz, a German word for worldweariness, though not unlike in English, one can make it mean worldweariness by saying something like "Le monde m'ennuie.", "The world bores me."

I looked at myself in the mirror, I looked into my eyes, into my face and saw nothing. My eyes had lost their shine, they were a dull shade of hazel, almost like dirt. They looked dry, maybe that's why I never cried when someone near me died. Maybe I lost myself, maybe I had truly died inside. My spirit was more than just broken, life threw me off a never-ending cliff until not even gravity could pull my soul any longer.

I want to call it apathy, but it seems so much worse. Life has become a miserable recurring episode of deja vu, like nothing ever changed. Life didn't even seem to matter anymore. I almost wished something would happen, just so I could see that I still cared about something, that something still mattered. I was a broken human, a soul that was continually drifting away from myself.

Walking down the street the whole world seemed gray and drab. The rest of the world seemed just as lifeless as I felt. I was numb, every step I took I felt like I was dying all over again. People walking by looked like cardboard figures, like automatons. I couldn't have smiled if I wanted to. I honestly wished I had the initiative to just die. To jump in front of a bus or even have the luck to be hit by a stray drive-by bullet.

Something I never expected to happen did soon after. Walking down the street one of my wishes would come true; a drunk driver swerved onto the sidewalk and ran me down, putting me through severe physical pain, but I felt something! My left leg was shattered, but I had actually, for once actually gave a shit about what happened! I writhed on the ground in agony until I passed out, maybe it does matter what happens to me.

Waking up in the hospital with my leg in a plaster cast I looked around the room. The room was completely white but it was a bright color of white, I felt like I could go blind if I looked at the same place for long enough. Maybe all I needed was a reason to worry, maybe all I needed was a wakeup from my sickening, gray world. I laid back in my bed and relaxed again for the first time in what felt waking up tomorrow was worth the effort.

En`nui" (?), n. [F., fr. L. in odio in hatred. See Annoy.]

A feeling of weariness and disgust; dullness and languor of spirits, arising from satiety or want of interest; tedium.

T. Gray.


© Webster 1913.

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