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abject

Abject means wretched or miserable, or to appear to be hopeless. It also means despicable or degraded. Finally, it means to be exceptionally humble, especially, according to The New Penguin English Dictionary, “to the point of servility.”

I like to think of myself as humble, but I’m opposed to being anything to the point of servility. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to displease anyone, but I’m not interested in living my life solely to please someone or some ones else. I want a little for me too.

Alright, I admit it. I’m a at least a part-time narcissist, if not a full-time one, but that’s who I am.

A word of caution about abject: Be careful that you don’t accidentally substitute an o for the a. That would form a valid word, object, so your spell checker won’t catch the mistake. (An almost totally worthless, but free bonus observation: My spell checker doesn’t think that the letter o standing on its own is a spelling error. Why is that? Has someone invented a new single-letter word that I don’t know about? Sigh. I won’t get to o-words in this project for years. Patience. Patience.)

Abject poverty is a common, gloomy expression. It means, not just your run-of-the-mill, everyday, garden-variety poverty, but, rather, wretched poverty. When someone talks about abject poverty they are usually talking about it as one the major problems of the world or of a particular location. So abject poverty is an serious subject that shouldn’t be trifled with or trivialized through typos.

Yet, if you inadvertently make the o-for-a typing mistake at the beginning of the word abject it will do exactly that because, then, abject poverty would become object poverty, which would convey a different meaning, or at least a different tone.

Rather than wretched poverty, which presumably was your intent, you would then be talking about the lack of objects, as contrasted with, say, the lack of emotions, friends, or electronically recorded money in the bank.

Because a lack of money in the bank is one possible indicator of poverty and because money in the bank, which these days is recorded electronically rather than being held as bills in a vault, is not a physical object, object poverty and abject poverty are different concepts. Then again, money in your pocket and food on the table, as well as shelter and clothes to protect you from the elements, are objects, so abject poverty and object poverty aren’t totally unrelated.

Another thing to note is that a material thing isn’t the only definition of the word object. It also means to oppose something. So, you might say that you object to abject poverty, but if you mistakenly say that you object to object poverty people might think you are a grammar-idiot who is trying to say that he or she objects to people who object to poverty. Of course, if that is what you meant to say then all you need to do is to throw in a couple of additional words to clean up your grammar.

That having been said, people rarely fall victim to the object-instead-of-abject typo, so you have almost certainly wasted your time by reading about it here. Sorry about that.

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