“When I first came here,” she said, “I had a little room in a building right about there where the firehouse is now... I shared the room with three others... We built our robots all in one building. Output—three a week. Now look at us.”

“Fifty years,” I hackneyed, “is a long time.”

'I, Robot', by Isaac Asimov

I can't figure out the meaning, a synonym for "hackneyed." I found as an adjective, but the author used it as a verb?

1 Answer 1


With all due respect to Mr Asimov, that usage makes me wince! The sense appears to be "I said (using a hackneyed phrase)". If you have found the adjective hackneyed in the dictionary you will know that he is implying that "Fifty years is a long time" is an unoriginal comment.

  • Now that I understand it made me wince, too. Gratitude is all I feel!
    – T. K.
    Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 8:14
  • Not that it addresses his writing ability, but Asimov was known among the women he met as “the man with a hundred hands”. I note that in 1971 a book blurb quoted the Mensa Bulletin as saying that he was “undoubtedly the best writer in America”. That aligns neatly with what I feel about Mensa and its members. Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 9:04
  • For the avoidance of doubt, the last sentence of my comment above should convey the meaning that I dislike the very idea of Mensa, have not formed a good impression of its members that I have met, and certainly don't think that membership confers any authority in the realm of literary criticism. Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 11:07
  • Around 1970, a friend asked me if I had any science fiction for him to read. I lent him 'The Weapon Shops of Isher' by AE Van Vogt (1951). He gave it back to me, saying 'This is probably the worst writing I have ever encountered!'. I see that a website calls it 'one of the better science fiction novels from its era', which doesn't say much for the rest. Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 11:14
  • The text quoted includes a type of expression that I particularly detest, where the writer appends a verb after some speech, and wishes to inventively improve upon 'said' , 'whispered', 'shouted', etc. 'Care to come to my room?' he husked Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 11:17

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