Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What is a good word for when something is theoretically correct but not useful in a real world context?

E.g, it's often said that "drinking water burns calories" but it actually turns out that after drinking cold water, your body warming that water up burns something like a dozen calories...not exactly "much."

So that advice is said to be?

share|improve this question
    
Mildly related: Is there a word for "clever fool"? –  Callithumpian Apr 30 '11 at 17:30
1  
'The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.' - Oscar Wilde –  Grant Thomas Apr 30 '11 at 20:13
add comment

8 Answers

impractical/unfeasible/ From The FreeDictionary:

not practical; not workable or not given to practical matters; "refloating the ship proved impractical because of the expense"; "he is intelligent but too impractical for commercial work"; "an impractical solution"

In statistics, it is said that there is no practical significance. A test that has a statistically significant result does not necessarily have a practical significance. For more explanation of the term, you can read here

share|improve this answer
add comment

I'd say the water advice is "useless" and the practice of drinking water to lose weight I'd call "futile."

share|improve this answer
add comment

What about the word fatuous? From Dictionary.com:

fat·u·ous  /ˈfætʃuəs/ (adj.)
1. foolish or inane, especially in an unconscious, complacent manner; silly.
2. unreal; illusory.

"Yes, I suppose your advice is technically correct, but it is utterly fatuous to think it important for my diet plan."

share|improve this answer
add comment

If you're ok with a phrase, things like this are often said to look good on paper:

to seem fine in theory, but not perhaps in practice; to appear to be a good plan. The plan looks good on paper, but it may not work. This looks good on paper. Let's hope it works in the real world.

The Free Dictionary

share|improve this answer
add comment

"nugatory"? "vacuous"? "inutile"?

share|improve this answer
    
This is really a comment, not an answer to the question. Please use "add comment" to leave feedback for the author. –  kiamlaluno Aug 14 '12 at 23:11
add comment

"inapplicable" would be the most direct adjective.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Ineffective.

Technically, the act of drinking water may indeed burn calories, but in reality it's completely ineffective as a weight-loss strategy.

share|improve this answer
add comment

How about purely theoretical, since the words theoretical and practical are often viewed as opposites.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.