Hitchens wrote something in his god is not Great to confuse me again:

Stalin then pedantically repeated the papal routine of making science conform to dogma, by insisting that the shaman and charlatan Trofim Lysenko had disclosed the key to genetics and promised extra harvests of specially inspired vegetables. (Millions of innocents died of gnawing internal pain as a consequence of this “revelation.”)

I can't figure out what is the exact meaning of inspired here.

Should I consider the meaning given by Oxford Dictionaries, which is:

  • Of extraordinary quality, as if arising from some external creative impulse

Or should I take the Merraim-Webster definition:

  • having a particular cause or influence

I don't know if I should consider any meaning(s) other than the above two.

I would appreciate it if anyone could help me out with this.

Thank you very much.

2 Answers 2


The word "inspired" is often used of texts that believers accept as Divine Word. These texts are understood by believers to be "divinely inspired". So this adjective is used here to characterize acceptance of Lysenko's pseudo-science as mere belief; his words were another variety of empty "revelation". "inspired vegetable" is biting sarcasm.

  • 1
    The "spire" part of "inspire" comes from Latin spirare meaning to breathe, but the word root can also mean spirit. So while its usual meaning is to "compel to do something creative or novel", it can also literally mean "put a spirit inside of".
    – LawrenceC
    Jul 27, 2015 at 14:04

This is an old question, but the issue is interesting and I can greatly add to the answer.

I am a native English speaker and the paragraph is not easy reading. The question here is about a common but rarely mentioned figure of speech. It is called transferred epithet, or hypallage. Approximately zero percent of English speakers have heard of those terms.

It means that a modifier is attached to the wrong noun. The key phrase was "inspired vegetables". It is impossible for vegetables to be inspired. It was ''the person who created the vegetables'' who was inspired.

The text is saying that Stalin treated science like religion. Stalin believed he knew the key to genetics. Stalin believed that he, or his scientists, had special creative knowledge and vision (they were inspired) to grow plants that would produce much more food. The text cut out the part about inspired people creating the plants, and just attached "specially inspired" to the resulting vegetables.

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