Perfunctory paradox

Perfunctory is one of those words I learned as a teenager and find a use for maybe once or twice a year. It’s an adjective meaning “done out of duty or routine; done cursorily or mechanically, without care, interest, or enthusiasm”:

Cycling by at speed, she offered a perfunctory wave.
The spectators were distracted, their applause perfunctory.
The doorman smiled perfunctorily as the guests entered.
In the foyer she read a perfunctory summary of the emergency rules.

For some reason I recently ran a search for perfunctory on Here’s what happened:

And I thought, “How did you know!?”

It seems to be working now, but at the time I was quite taken aback by the paradox. Luckily it was just a perfunctory search.


7 Responses to Perfunctory paradox

  1. Claudia says:

    La plume de ma tante est sur le bureau de mon oncle. Hahaha! Nothing perfunctory about the uncle’s enthusiastic reaction. Sorry, Stan! I couldn’t resist….

  2. Stan says:

    Tu as raison, Claudia: l’oncle a placé son papier sur le bureau de la tante — pas perfunctory mais pour fonctionner!

  3. Claudia says:

    Haha! J’aime beaucoup le double entendre français. Avec un clin d’oeil coquin. It’s not really naughty, just amusing, and never a perfunctory routine.

  4. wisewebwoman says:

    This set me to wondering about “funk” and perfunctory and that sent me off to Funk & Wagnell’s which was most uncoperative even though their braggadocio about their funky on-line service led me to believe otherwise. Similar to your Thesaurus experience.
    I’ve liked this word as an adverb – “he ate his food perfunctorily”. There’s a jaded quality to this function. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he eats his food.
    See what you started?

  5. Stan says:

    WWW: Do Funk & Wagnalls have a website? If they do, it’s well disguised. Even a perfunctory web page would be appreciated.

    What you say about eating is true. I used to eat impatiently (though slowly), wishing I could somehow photosynthesize and so spend my time otherwise; now I eat happily and gratefully (and still quite slowly), envying the plants only rarely.

  6. I wish I had more searches like that Stan!

  7. Stan says:

    Once in a blue moon is enough for me, Jams!

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