Favorite

Words, Oct. 15 

“ASU Worker Rips Hopeful in E-mail … JONESBORO — The news director of an Arkansas State University-owned radio station referred to one of Sen. Blanche Lincoln's opponents as a ‘nimrod' in a note sent from his state e-mail account. Greg Chance of KASU-FM thought he was sending the e-mail to Lincoln's office. Instead, he sent it to the Republican candidate he was criticizing.”

Not the first instance of someone's sending an e-mail to the wrong person, though one of the more embarrassing. But it wouldn't be  embarrassing if the word nimrod hadn't acquired a new meaning in recent years. Older dictionaries refer only to an upper-case Nimrod, a Biblical figure, and a more common lower-case version that means simply “a hunter,” the original Nimrod having been described in Genesis as a mighty hunter. Older people are likely to  recognize only those two uses.

Newer dictionaries, like the Merriam-Webster Online, say that nimrod is also a slang term for “a foolish person; a jerk.” Sometime back, U.S. Rep. Marion Berry attracted the attention of the Washington media when he called a Republican congressman “a Howdy Doody-looking nimrod.” Jonesboro is in Berry's district. Maybe he's helped popularize the word there.

It's unclear how nimrod contracted this unflattering meaning. One story is that it started with Bugs Bunny, who is said to have referred to Elmer Fudd as a “poor little Nimrod” while Elmer was doggedly hunting rabbits brighter than himself. In this version, audiences either didn't know or didn't remember the “hunter” connotation. Only the “dumb” implication stuck. But another source says nimrod was first used this way in print in the early 1930s, pre-dating Bugs and Elmer.

I suspect the derogatory sense of nimrod has something to do with the sound of the word. People heard nimrod and thought of “dimwit” and “numbskull” and such, and they decided nimrod must be a relative.

Incidentally, the congressman that Berry confronted is now being mentioned as a possible Republican vice presidential candidate, on a ticket with Sarah Palin, but Karl Rove has warned that he may be too intellectual.   

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Cotton to CIA?

    Political junkies without a real election to overanalyze fill the void with "what if?" scenarios. With the State Fair underway, consider this column a helping of cotton candy for such readers.
  • The casting couch

    Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching — always in social situations — but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks, hinting that being a "hunk" was how I'd got hired.
  • Caution: government at work

    I have several government targets this week.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • As to the AR Chamber of Commerce-DO NOT FORGET it supports passage of SJR8, which…

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: The casting couch

    • Freedom from fear is a human right.

    • on October 19, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • I think Cotton's nature will always be pro war, pro guns, increased defense budget, unrestricted…

    • on October 19, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation