Inchoate \in-ˈkō-ət, ˈin-kə-ˌwāt\
Origin: Latin inchoātus, past participle of inchoāre, to begin
What is inchoate? This blog is inchoate. My journey is inchoate. My career is inchoate.
An unfinished process, one in its early stages. A journey somewhere between its beginning and its unknown end. A tadpole.
This is my first weekly word, and one day I will have amassed a collection of interesting and underrated words right here. Today, though, it is only just the beginning, it is in its initial stages: it is inchoate.
So apart from referring to something in its rudimentary stages, how else can we use inchoate? I found two specific applications, one from law and one from linguistics.
Legal: An inchoate offense
This is criminal conduct which occurs without actual harm resulting. It is criminal because if it had continued to its intended conclusion, it would have caused harm considered criminal.
A common inchoate offense is conspiracy, for example to perform a terrorist act. I’m guessing that the 23 year old Nigerian man Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who attempted to bring down a plane over the United States last Christmas may have been charged with an inchoate offense. Among others.
Linguistic: An inchoative aspect
This is a linguistic concept which I am still trying to grasp, but I will post what I have gleaned from my reading so far.
An inchoative aspect refers to a verb whose action is beginning to occur. It is not about to start – it is already occurring – but its beginning is still remembered. It has not finished, but is continuing to an unknown point.
The inchoative aspect can be difficult for English speakers to grasp because it doesn’t really exist in our language. The closest we can get is to combine verbs such as ‘started’ and ‘got’ with a gerund, like ‘walking’ and ‘wet’. ‘I started walking’ is kind of close to the inchoative aspect, suggesting an event which is beginning to occur, and will continue to an unknown point. Maybe ‘I just started walking’ would be better.
In some languages, you can say all of this in one word, and Hebrew is one of them. There is a word in Hebrew that literally means ‘to start being lain down’.
Right now I’m writing from Israel, so this is particularly apt for me.
So, now that we’ve explored this word inchoate, what do we do with it? Here are some suggestions for how you can integrate this vaguely weird sounding word into your generally cool vernacular:
To a customer at the café: Your meal’s on its way, but right now it’s kind of inchoate.
To an aggro driver: Don’t cut me off you inchoate tool!
To someone in the morning: I just need a coffee and I’ll move on from this inchoate phase.
About Sydney public transport service: Compared to services in other parts of the country and the world, it’s rather inchoate.
An indecisive person might say: My plans are always inchoate.
Please feel free to comment if you feel like any of these uses are stretching the friendly relationship between word and woman, language and l’homme.
Have a great week!