Trend Watch

Intransigence

Alan Rickman's passing sparks an unusual use of synonym for stubbornness


Intransigence (meaning ‘great stubbornness, or unwillingness to change’) spiked this afternoon, January 14, 2016, as a result of Emma Thompson using the word in a moving tribute to her recently-deceased friend and colleague, Alan Rickman:

The intransigence which made him the great artist he was – his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view. I learned a lot from him.

Intransigence comes from an adjectival sibling, intransigent, which is itself taken from the Spanish intransigente (meaning unyielding). It is a fairly recent addition to English, in use only since the late 19th century. It is also a word that is not often used in a complimentary sense. Yet Thompson is clearly using the word to indicate her admiration for Rickman, employing the word in a manner that stands in stark contrast with how the New York Times editorial board used it yesterday, in describing President Obama’s recent State of the Union Address:

Efforts to curb gun violence remain on the White House agenda, though executive actions may be all that the president can manage, given congressional intransigence.



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