Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  The Vocabulary Forum    Losers of Interest
Go
New
Find
Notify
Tools
Reply
  
Losers of Interest Login/Join
 
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted
English has lots of contemptuous nouns naming "loser" personalities of various sorts. This week we'll present the interesting stories behind several such words. The words are familiar, so we won't be increasing your vocabulary, but hopefully we'll increase your enjoyment of it.

Many of these words are eponyms, thus fitting last week's theme too. We'll begin with some of them.

twerp – a despicable or objectionable person; an insignificant person, a nobody; a nincompoop.

According to Tolkien, "twerp" is from the college-student years of T. W. Earp, full name Thomas Wade Earp (1895-1958).

Tolkien should know. From 1911 to 1915 Tolkien and Earp were students together at Oxford's Exeter College. In the last year, when Tolkien contributed poetry to Oxford Poetry magazine, Earp was a contributor/editor there. Earp continued in that role for several years, joined by other Oxford students whose names you'll recognize: Aldous Huxley and Dorothy L. Sayers.
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
<Asa Lovejoy>
posted
The real Asa Lovejoy was a loser. Had he won a coin toss with Francis Pettygrove, I'd be living in Boston, Oregon, not Portland! Big Grin
 
Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Proofreader
posted Hide Post
Error -- wrong forum


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
Posts: 6006 | Location: Rhode IslandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Yesterday we saw "twerp". Today we see another eponym from Oxford's academia, a much older one.

dunce – a stupid person; a dolt

OED explains how academic disputes made this into an insulting word.
    An application of the name of John Duns Scotus, the celebrated scholastic theologian, called ‘Doctor Subtilis’ the Subtle Doctor, who died in 1308. His works on theology, philosophy, and logic, were textbooks in the Universities, in which (as at Oxford) his followers … were a predominating Scholastic sect, until the 16th c., when the system was attacked with ridicule … as a farrago of needless entities, and useless distinctions. The Dunsmen or Dunses, on their side, railed against the ‘new learning’, and the name Duns or Dunce, already synonymous with ‘cavilling sophist’ or ‘hair-splitter’, soon passed into the sense of ‘dull obstinate person impervious to the new learning’, and of ‘blockhead incapable of learning or scholarship’.
Though we all know this word, and no example is needed, I'll give an example from one of my favorite poems:
    You are amazed that I could tell
    The creature's name so quickly? Well,
    I knew it was not a paper-doll,
    A pencil or a parasol,
    A tennis-racket or a cheese,
    And, as it was not one of these,
    And I am not a perfect dunce
    It had to be a Cumberbunce!
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
From Oxford to Cambridge …

Town-gown relationships are often strained. In 1615, when King James II visited Cambridge, the Cambridge academics were particularly scornful of the town's lawyers. They despised the inferior "law Latin", and they despised one particular habitual enemy of the University: lawyer Francis Brackyn, the town's recorder.

The University's entertainments for the King included a farcical play written by George Ruggle "to expose the ignorance and arrogance of the common lawyers". The law of the time commonly used a Latin word meaning, "We do not know,¹ and Ruggle used that word as the name for his lead character (who is a caricature of Brackyn) and as his play's title. In effect, Ruggle was calling Bracken "Mr. We-Do-Not-Know".

Mr. We-Do-Not-Know (in Latin, ignoramus) became an English word

ignoramus – an ignorant person


¹ Specifically: if a grand jury rejected the prosecution's case as being insufficiently shown, it so signified by writing (in Latin), "We do not know."
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of Proofreader
posted Hide Post
Mrs. Fields' cookies have made her famous
But it seems she's a real ignoramous
She took a quick lookie
And a taste of a cookie
But refused to endorse Famous Amos.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
Posts: 6006 | Location: Rhode IslandReply With QuoteReport This Post
Member
Picture of wordcrafter
posted Hide Post
Here's another eponym arising from the ridicule cast in an intellectual feud, this one between poets: Henry Carey and Alexander Pope, against poet Ambrose Philips.

namby-pamby – weak, foolish or silly

Carey wrote a wicked parody of some puerile children's verse that Ambrose Philips had penned. He simultaneously lampooned Philips and delivered a scathing criticque. Carey titled his parody Namby-Pamby: or, A Panegyric on the New Versification address 'd to A________ P_______ Esq. Any doubt whom Carey meant by "A_____ P____" was removed by the amby, as in "Ambrose".

Carey's parody is well worth a read. Samples:
  • Now he pumps his little Wits; / Sh---ing Writes and Writing Sh-ts, / All by little tiny Bits.
  • To repeat to Little Miss, / Piddling Ponds of Pissy-Piss;
 
Posts: 2670Reply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  
 

Wordcraft Home Page    Wordcraft Community Home Page    Forums  Hop To Forum Categories  The Vocabulary Forum    Losers of Interest

Copyright © 2002-12