Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fool


Fool

As this week progresses, people in many lands will celebrate foolishness (or at least indulge in some). In honor of April 1, we’ll join them by taking a gander at the word fool.

Fool has been around in English for a long time. The noun form of fool showed up in the 1200s & the verb form appeared about a century later. It came from fol, an Old French term for idiot, rogue, jester, or madman. The French got it from the Latin term follis, literally meaning leather bag or bellows & figuratively meaning empty-headed person or windbag. Though one might imagine the antics of court jesters inspired the word, centuries of jesters gave their collective all before the English term fool was applied to their ilk in the late 1300s.

In 1680 the term April fool was born. On All Fool’s Day people were sent on “false errands” (did those Brits have a crazy sense of humor or what?). Interestingly, the Norse had a similar celebration known as April Gowk (gowk meant cuckoo in Norse)

Some fool-related words include:

follicle,
fun
fond,
bold (no fooling)

Though most of the following words have multiple meanings, they are all also synonyms for fool:

gorm,
berk,
schmoe,
schmuck
schlemiel,
simpleton,
fop,
muggins,
patch,
putz
moppet,
dodo,
sot,
nincompoop,
gawp,
gowk,
ninny,
coot, &
naïf

What have you to say about all this etymological tomfoolery?



My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Etymonline, & Wordnik

4 comments:

  1. I love the Brit word "gormless" which means foolish, too. funny that whether you're a gorm or gormless, you're still a ninny. I love that "fool" literally means windbag. So it means "whoopie cushion" I wonder if court jesters had those. :-)

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  2. Why April first for fools day, I wonder. Maybe it has something to do with the way Spring fools people into thinking it's coming when it's not. I've never heard most of those words for fool. I have to admit "fool" still hits home for me. It's one of those words that kind of spits out of your mouth when said with meaning. Ha!

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  3. Hi Anne & Christine,
    I agree. Gorm & gormless are words it's just plain fun to say. I hadn't run into gowk before this week, & it's growing on me. When it comes to words I haven't previously run into, I particularly love the idea that naif has its roots in naive.

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  4. I have a friend whose surname is Schmucki. I wonder if an ancestor was particularly foolish and the name stuck. However, in Yiddish, "schmuck" means jerk; in Middle High German, it means jewels. Maybe the ancestor who acquired the name was a jerk with lots of jewels who foolishly lost them.

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