Posted by: Footler PJ15 AUG 2012
When the name “Footler” was suggested as a nom de plume for my contributions to The Pharmaceutical Journal I took it as a reflection of the freedom I am given to explore almost any subject that catches my eye.
However, until recently I had not considered any actual derivations of the word. According to my dictionary, “footle” is an informal verb meaning to loiter aimlessly, to potter and to talk nonsense.
(Furthermore, it seems that footle probably comes from the Latin futuere via the French foutre — both of which are slang obscenities!)
I have no excuses for talking nonsense, but I see nothing wrong with a little aimless loitering. Of course, some will say this equates to idleness and it is true that footling achieves absolutely nothing if you measure life only in terms of targets, graphs, audits and appraisals.
But while, as Jerome K. Jerome wrote, “It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. . . . Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen”, I am merely suggesting a healthy degree of idleness, a few moments of peace.
And I am sure when William Henry Davies wrote, “What is this life if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare . . .”, he had footling in mind.
Eighty years ago Bertrand Russell published “In praise of idleness”, a collection of essays in which he espoused the virtues of cool reflection and free enquiry. He also suggested that working four hours a day should be adequate for anyone.
While few of us are able to do that, Russell’s view that “We attach too little importance to enjoyment and simple happiness” and that we should seek a “voice of calm in a world of maddening unreason” is still relevant.