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Jejune (pronounced 'je-JUNE', IPA: /dʒə ˈdʒuːn/) is an adjective with a complex history. One element in this history leads to the mis-spelling jejeune.

  • The word starts as a Latin adjective meaning 'fasting', or more generally 'not eating' or 'hungry'. This meaning is now obsolete in English.
    • By a natural extension, it was applied to the diet, to mean 'thin' and 'unsatisfying'. This was metaphorically broadened to land.
    • Its metaphorical application to 'mental food' (writing, conversation etc) gives the sense 'thin, scanty, lacking substance', and thus 'boring, dry, dull'.
    • This came to be particularly associated with 'puerile' thinking, so that jejune is often used to mean 'puerile, childish, immature', or, in the most extreme sense, 'naive.' This development in meaning is described in Burchfield's Fowler as "a somewhat surprising association of ideas", and it recommends the use of synonyms such as puerile, childish, infantile, juvenile instead.

It is this meaning that appears to be associated with the mis-spelling jejeune, which appears to come from the knowledge of many that the French word for 'young' is jeune. This is a distraction: the words jeune and jejune have no etymological connection. People who make this spelling error often pronounce jejune in the French way, IPA: /dʒə ˈdʒɜːn/. This too is an error.