Okay gumshoes, here’s the skinny. We’ve got
ourselves a case to solve, and have narrowed the
search pool down to two suspects… Jimmy
“uninterested” Jones and Tommy “disinterested”
In order to solve this mystery, you will need to
figure out which of the suspects lives in the
sentence “A clergyman cannot be _______________
about theology, nor a soldier about war.” Our
private eyes have determined that the murderer lives
in this sentence, but neither suspect will step
forward. The sooner you decide which word fits
grammatically into this sentence, the quicker we
can slap the cuffs on our perp.
Disinterested is defined by the
Concise American Heritage Dictionary as being
“[…]synonymous with impartial [and] unbiased.”
Uninterested is defined as meaning “not
interested” or “indifferent.”
So let’s work these definitions into an example.
Observations and Surveillance:
Assume for a moment that you were applying for a
position on the grammar police squad. The person
interviewing you might ask if you had any biases
that might prevent you from making
grammatically correct decisions fairly. You could answer
that you were disinterested in the outcome of the
cases that you worked on to indicate that you had no
bias towards the case or the people involved.
Now let’s look at uninterested. Assume that
the same interviewer has told you that you are
perfect for the position, but then offers a salary
that you find less than desirable. You could say
that you were uninterested in the job because
you would not want to work for such low pay.
Breaking the Case:
Based on what we know, the sentence “A clergyman
cannot be _______________ about theology, nor a
soldier about war” implies that the people involved
cannot be impartial about what they do. Since we
know that only one of these two suspects implies
impartiality, the culprit has to be…
Tommy “DISINTERESTED” Smith!!! (who now has the
right to remain silent. Anything he says can and
will be used against him in a grammar court of law.
He has the right to a grammarian. If he cannot
afford one, one will be provided for him...)
Good job, gumshoes. I think that this case is
officially CLOSED. (Pink Panther music plays,
Katie Moody has
worked at the Academic Center as a peer writing tutor since spring
2008. She received her bachelor's degree in English and is
currently pursuing a master's degree in interdisciplinary
studies and plans to go into publishing.
“Disinterested.” The Concise American Heritage Dictionary.
“Disinterested, Uninterested.” Webster’s Dictionary of
English Usage. 1989.
Blue, Tina. “Problematic Word Pairs: Part I.” Grammar Usage
for the Non-Expert. March, 2001.