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What word best describes the experience of starting something, and ending up, before you know it, far deeper into it than you had ever intended, or far more embroiled, involved, or even having finished or done it irreversibly. An example might be, say, opening a book out of curiosity, and finding yourself, the next thing you know, dumbfounded to have finished the whole book, almost as if it had happened by some driving involuntary osmosis or in a blackout.

Example sentence with blank for desired word: Having opened the tome with the intent of reading only the first paragraph, she found herself, in what seemed like hardly an hour, staring at it's back cover almost as an alcoholic might awaken from a blackout to an empty liquor cabinet, and wondering at the _________ way some deeds are done in life, almost as if they are done to you.

5 Answers 5

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I think mindless or unconscious would fit best in your sentence, but I know what you're talking about. Sometimes you drive somewhere and don't remember how you got there. In AmE we use the phrase "auto-pilot" for this, and it has extended to tasks that one performs seemingly automatically.

As in, "I was so tired on Christmas Eve, I baked ten batches of cookies on auto-pilot."

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A very literal word would be imperceptable. But I must admit that it doesn't sound that great to my ear when placed in your sentence. A thesaurus gave some synonyms which are somewhat metaphorical in this place, but at least for my sense of language, might be a better fit: subtle, undetectable, imperceptible, impalpable, imponderable, inconspicuous.

I'm not a native speaker, and some of these suggestions may turn out to sound odd. My gut feeling is to go with "impalpable", but I can't explain why it feels best to me - may be a subjective association with its meaning in another language.

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  • i like imponderable, especially in the sentence, the somewhat redundant tension of "wondering" at the "imponderable." Thanks all!
    – Tara P
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 0:35
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A common idiom for this situation would be lose oneself in. (also lost in). When you lose yourself in something, you don't realize how time passes.

When I lose myself in my work, time just rushes by.


There are also scientific explanations about why we get lost in books.

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"magic"?

"wondering at the magic way some deeds are done in life"

magic (adj) involving the skill of doing tricks that seem to be impossible, capable of producing good results very easily. Merriam-Webster

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I would use inexplicable:

incapable of being explained, interpreted, or accounted for <an inexplicable disappearance>
(Source: Merriam-Webster)

In your example:

... she found herself ... wondering at the inexplicable way some deeds are done in life, almost as if they are done to you.

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