torpor

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Mr Bones

Senior Member
España - Español
Hello, I'd like to know is torpor is an usual word, because I read it twice but I have an australian friend who didn't know it. Could it come from American English? Is it a common word in British English? Thank you very much. This is the first time I ask a question in a forum. I´m very excited. Mr Bones.
 
  • flightgoddess

    Senior Member
    US, English, Spanish
    This is the Spanish/English forum. There is one just for English you know. But here is the dictionary definition. It is not commonly used in th US, except in literature and poetry, maybe journalism. But, no, I would not call it an everyday vocabulary word.

    Main Entry: tor·por
    Pronunciation: 'tor-p&r
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Latin, from torpEre
    1 : APATHY, DULLNESS
    2 : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility : extreme sluggishness or stagnation of function
    synonym see LETHARGY
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Welcome to WR Mr Bones.

    Torpor is not used a great deal in British English either. It seems to me to have a rather scientific sense - a word that might be used in relation to animal behaviour.
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    flightgoddess said:
    This is the Spanish/English forum. There is one just for English you know. But here is the dictionary definition. It is not commonly used in th US, except in literature and poetry, maybe journalism. But, no, I would not call it an everyday vocabulary word.

    Main Entry: tor·por
    Pronunciation: 'tor-p&r
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Latin, from torpEre
    1 : APATHY, DULLNESS
    2 : a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility : extreme sluggishness or stagnation of function
    synonym see LETHARGY
    I have learned a new word today. :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hi Mr. Bones,
    Bienvenido a los foros.

    Your thread has been moved from español/inglés to English, but to give you a better idea of the meaning of the word, just think of 'letargo' and 'sopor' or perhaps 'torpe' in the sense of moving with great difficulty.

    Un saludo,
    Cuchuflete
     

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Thank you, Cuchuflete, for your answer. I think I understand the concept, but I was actually interested in learning about how often natives use this word or in which english-speaking country it´s more usual. The reason is that I found it twice -once in a Paul Auster's book and the other one in an article about the film All about Eve-, but an australian friend of mine didn't know it and that surprised me because I've always thought he has a very good english. Thank you again and I apologize for having missed the forum in my first question here.
    Mr Bones.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hello Again Mr. Bones,
    I think it's a word that most literate AE speakers would know, but as a broad generality I would place it in the category of 'passive vocabulary' rather than the active vocabulary of frequent speech. In other words, we recognize it when we see it or hear it, but use it very infrequently.

    regards,
    Cuchuflete
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I completely second Cuchu's response.

    I can only speak for American English - but it is a word every educated, literate American should know. Nevertheless, I can safely say I have never heard anybody use it in everyday conversation. In fact, it's so rare when I first saw it in this thread I thought of torrid (which is still literary-esque but not as arcane). It took me a few seconds to recall torpor from the darkest recesses of my subconscious (eliciting a swift flashback of the GRE days!).

    It is worth mentioning that not knowing the word does not indicate stupidity or mental handicap. It is simply not common.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I agree that torpor is uncommon, but I don't think it's headed for the inkhorn just yet-- so I'll cast a dissenting vote and say it's not only in occasional use, it's also useful where another word just won't do.

    I do use it in conversation, usually in anecdotes about a person everyone thought was passed out-- but who was in fact mentally aware of the goings-on, and who piped in with a comment, usually to comedic effect.
    In other words torpor subs for stupor in situations where someone's "drunken stupor" turns out to be a physical, but not necessarily mental, lassitude.

    I searched the folders of my own writings on the harddrive, and found a half dozen uses of the word-- most of them in situations as described above. In one sole instance I used it in a description of sexual aftermath involving characters who weren't especially intoxicated.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    foxfirebrand said:
    I agree that torpor is uncommon, but I don't think it's headed for the inkhorn just yet-- so I'll cast a dissenting vote and say it's not only in occasional use, it's also useful where another word just won't do.

    I do use it in conversation, usually in anecdotes about a person everyone thought was passed out-- but who was in fact mentally aware of the goings-on, and who piped in with a comment, usually to comedic effect.
    In other words torpor subs for stupor in situations where someone's "drunken stupor" turns out to be a physical, but not necessarily mental, lassitude.

    I searched the folders of my own writings on the harddrive, and found a half dozen uses of the word-- most of them in situations as described above. In one sole instance I used it in a description of sexual aftermath involving characters who weren't especially intoxicated.
    At the risk of waxing "chatty," I daresay your exposure to the world of academia has been higher than that of the "typical" American. :)
     
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