fundamental (adj)

Especially “fundamentally” (adv)

1. serving as, or being an essential part of, a foundation or basis; basic; underlying: fundamental principles; the fundamental structure.

2. of, relating to, or affecting the foundation or basis: a fundamental revision.

3. being an original or primary source: a fundamental idea.

This is a word thrown around a lot in academic discussions, but it doesn’t mean much.  Basically, it sounds better than saying “basically” and generally implies an appeal to an imaginary world of “fundamentals” that are usually more or less assumed/unexamined.

When I hear this word, I like to remember its etymology.  Cut off the “al” and it becomes “fundament,” meaning “the buttocks, the anus, or a base or basic principle.”  Cut more off it and we find it is related to “found” and “find,” from Middle English “founden” to Old French founder to Latin fundare from more latin fundus meaning, quite literally, “bottom.”

So whenever you hear an academic haphazardly condescending to explain to you what is or isn’t “fundamentally the case” or what is the “fundamental principle,” remember that this academic has admitted–openly and honestly–that he is talking out of his ass.

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