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acute

I read the word acute and thought, “a cute what?” It’s the final word in the dictionary starting with ac. I guess I’m getting a little giddy with excitement over that. Yeah, that’s what it is. That is a much better reflection on me than the more likely explanation, which is that I have poor reading skills.

Of course, none of the few very different meanings of acute is related to a cute anything at all.

The fact that acute has multiple disparate meanings brings up a question. Our alphabet has 26 letters. True, you can’t combine them any which way you want. Put too many vowels or consonants in a row would produce an unpronounceable word. Even two consonants in a row might cause a pronunciation problem if they were the wrong two consonants. Nevertheless, you can still produce millions of words without any of them having to be all that long.

So why is it necessary to give one word a number of totally different meanings and then depend on context to try to make it clear which meaning is intended? Were our forebears so lazy or uncreative that they couldn’t come up with a new word for each noun, pronoun, article, verb, adjective, adverb and preposition? It seems silly to me. But it is what it is.

One is of acute is int the term acute angle, which is an angle of less than 90 degrees. If you’re not familiar with angles, then you are likely to fall for pretty much any scam that comes along. But that’s not the type of angle I’m talking about here.

Instead, I’m referring to the angle at which two lines meet. A 90 degree angle is a right angle. By “right angle,” I don’t mean the opposite of a wrong angle. I mean two intersecting lines that are perpendicular to each other. If none of ninety-degree angle, right angle and perpendicular lines gives you the picture, look it up. There a people who are much better at explaining acute angles than I am. Besides, I’ve got to move on to the other definitions of acute.

Acute also means perceptive or shrewd. For example, you might have an acute awareness of nonsense. In that case, what the hell are you doing here? You must be very upset with me by now because of all of this time-wasting nonsense.

Another meaning of acute is to an intense degree, but possibly only for a short time. This usually is in reference to a medical condition. For example, you might have acute appendicitis. If you do, seek medical attention immediately. Really, what are you still doing here? This entry will still be here when you get back. Go!

Acute can also mean demanding immediate attention. For example, you might have an acute need to get some work done because you’ll be fired if you don’t. If so, you might want to consider no longer wasting your time surfing to claptrap Web sites like this one during working hours. That’s just a suggestion.

Some languages put accent marks over letters. The accent mark changes the way the letter is pronounced. An acute accent is one that slopes up from the left to the right. For example, résumé has two acute accents, one over each e. By the way, that is the correct spelling of résumé even in English, which doesn’t normally use accent marks. The reason résumé should have acute accents even in English is we English-speakers were too lazy to come up with our own word for it so we stole the French word.

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