Word of the Week: Extraneous

This week’s “Word of the Week” is extraneous.  According to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, extraneous is an adjective that means “not forming a vital part” or “irrelevant.”  Extraneous can also mean “not having to do with the matter at hand” (The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus).  The extra of extraneous gives you a great hint about the word’s meaning: something that is extra isn’t necessary or, in some cases, even desirable.  Extraneous details in a document or a speech that are not relevant to the author’s central argument can be distracting and confusing, and they have the potential to undermine the author’s ability to communicate successfully with his/her audience.

Extraneous pic of Atlas

Extraneous pic of Atlas

Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder sheds additional light on the meaning of extraneous: “Extraneous and strange both come from the same Latin word, extraneus, which basically meant ‘external’ or ‘coming from outside.’ … Researchers always try to eliminate extraneous factors (or ‘extraneous variables’) from their studies.  A researcher conducting a psychological test, for example, would try to make sure that the people were tested under the same conditions, and were properly divided according to gender, age, health, and so on” (165).

Let’s look at some examples of extraneous from recent news articles.

“On the latest episode of What the Tech podcast, Thurrott shared some inside information on the next Xbox, saying that the console will launch this November for $500. There will also apparently be a $300 option for those willing to go with a subscription model … On a slightly more positive note, Thurrott claimed that the new console will be first and foremost a gaming device, putting all of the extraneous entertainment functions to the side. There were originally plans to release something of the sort, but has since been tabled.” http://bit.ly/YGNAxH

“In The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare urges the audience to accept magic transformations within a story that encompasses tragedy and comedy, families riven apart and reconciled, a man-eating bear and a plot point that hinges on a statue. At the McCarter Theatre, director Rebecca Taichman encourages us also to accept candid theatrics, as actors flip through multiple roles and change costumes before our eyes and sets, sounds, and attire all take on fantastical qualities. The director makes cuts to the unwieldy script, eliminating repetition and extraneous characters. Her idea to double and triple cast roles makes sense for characters whose fortunes shift so drastically they may as well be in each others’ shoes.” http://bit.ly/10AhEu2

“LexisNexis Early Data Analyzer filters, indexes and searches data at its source location so that users can determine the nature and amount of relevant data in a lawsuit, rather than processing an entire data set that includes many duplicate and extraneous files. Using this tool, litigators can reduce the number of files for e-discovery processing and review by up to 80 percent – helping to save time and money.” http://bit.ly/14ZOSHP

“Stop extraneous programs from launching automatically at start up. Every time you install software on your computer, whether it’s iTunes, Quicken or your new printer’s installation disk, the program’s default installation instructions typically direct your computer to launch the application whenever your system starts up. From that point on, the program runs in the background, ready and waiting should you choose to launch it or run an associated function that it could ‘help with.’” http://bit.ly/XzAMul

“Moot allows for this kind of flexibility, but it adds a number of other useful features, too, while removing others that the founders feel are extraneous to their core purpose of enabling online discussions. For example, posting inline photos and videos is not supported out of the box, but because Moot is configurable, a site owner could add these back in if it were mission-critical for them to do so. Also not available are things like voting comments up or down, which Couch says can make following and replying to discussions confusing for users.” http://tcrn.ch/16IJd6W

For more information on extraneous, please visit the following Web sites:

Works Cited:
“Extraneous.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 11th Ed., 2004. Print.
“Extraneous.” The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus. 2005. Print.
“Extraneous.” Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder. 2nd Ed., 2010. Print.



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