Sunday, May 29, 2011


There's a review of a new book on boredom in the Times today (Boredom: A Lively History, by Peter Toohey).  One of the things I learned from this review is that there's simple boredom, the kind you get listening to a boring speech, and then there's existential boredom, the kind you get from being bored with life.  I don't think I have existential boredom -- I'd really like to live forever, and presumably if you feel that way you can't have existential boredom.  But man, do I have simple boredom. 

Did you know?  Simple boredom
"is typically transient for most people, though there are chronic sufferers for whom boredom is very frequent. Psychologists try to diagnose chronic boredom with questionnaires: the Boredom Proneness Scale, developed in 1986 at the University of Oregon, asks patients to rate 28 statements (like “Time always seems to be passing slowly” and “I am good at waiting patiently”) on a seven-point scale."
I googled "Boredom Proneness Scale" and I found a page with the questions but in my impatient and easily bored 21st century way I was all frustrated and annoyed that it wasn't an actual "click here" online quiz but just a list of questions you could ... what, print out?

I went to the Wikipedia page and found this message:
"Boring" redirects here. For other uses, see Boring (disambiguation). For the Buzzcocks song, see Spiral Scratch (EP).
Wikipedia:  always interesting in surprising ways.

We Anglophones have a way of talking about boredom in terms of understimulation but I've never thought that could be right, since surfing the internet is often massively boring while listening to a song you've heard a million times is not boring at all.

I've long thought the French had it right, with their word for "to bore" -- "ennuyer" -- meaning both to bore and to harass or annoy.  I thought they were trying to convey, correctly I think, that boredom in the sense of "I'm bored" is a way of being harassed or annoyed, even if it feels also like "having nothing to do." 

But now I read on the internet that it's not that they think these are related things, but rather that the word is ambiguous, just meaning two different things.

Can this be true?

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