A vague vagary

A legal officer referred to a claimant’s claims and evidence as vague and inconsistent (which is not unusual) but also as containing significant vagary and inconsistency.

By itself it is possible for claims and evidence to contain significant vagary:

1. an unpredictable or erratic action, occurrence, course, or instance
2. a whimsical, wild, or unusual idea, desire, or action

but the closest noun equivalent of vague is vagueness. In fact, Dictionary.com doesn’t have a separate definition for vagueness, redirecting searches for it to the definition for vague. Vagary may at one time have been the best equivalent for vague, but it isn’t now. –ness is a very common and productive noun morpheme. Also, vagaries is much more commonly used than vagary

We most often talk or write about (a/the/-) vague idea(s), sense, feeling, notion(s), term(s), way, hope (they are mostly internal), (a/the) vagary of nature, thought, fashion, fate, fortune/Fortune, imagination, taste, mine, fancy and vagaries of life, nature, weather, chance, climate, fortune, fashion, politics, fancy, imagination (they are mostly external). 

But vague/vagueness and vagary share an origin in Latin vagus, wandering,  vagārī to wander (compare vagrant/vagrancy).

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2 thoughts on “A vague vagary

  1. Oooh, interesting. Thanks. I didn’t know that word, otherwise I would have mentioned it.
    After some research, I have some doubts about its bona fides. Yourdictionary cites Wikitionary and gives no examples. Wiktionary, in turn, says ‘Attested since at least the 1800s’ but no examples. It’s in very few other dictionaries, and appears as close to a flat line compared with vagary and vagueness on Google Ngrams. Searching online, there are references which are probably taken from Wikipedia (acknowledged or not), and a scattering of what appear to be actual usages, but it’s not clear whether they are genuine or a mistake for vagary. Access to the full MW or Oxford would be useful.
    Our legal officers type or dictate their decisions, and some are better produced/proofread than others. I can more easily someone mistakenly typing ‘vagary’ instead of ‘vaguery’ (because it’s a more common word, but on the other hand, they have just typed ‘vague’ several times) or an auto-replace doing it.
    I’m not sure how I might have discovered the word vaguery. It’s not listed or linked in any of the dictionaries I looked in. Even Yourdictionary’s list of words like ‘vague’ stops at ‘vagueish’ (I’m not sure what ‘vagueish’ accomplishes that ‘vague’ doesn’t!)
    For what it’s worth, Pages for Mac changes vaguery to vaguely and WordPress red-underlines it. It is, at the very least, very uncommon, and all dictionaries define it purely in terms of either vague, vagueness or vagary, at which point it’s probably better to use vagueness.

    Liked by 1 person

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