December 6, 2018

"The ship of fools fully fraught and richly laden with asses, fools, jack-daws, ninnihammers, coxcombs, slender-wits, shallowbrains, paper-skuls, simpletons, nickumpoops, wiseakers, dunces, and blockheads."

That's a book title from 1668 — which I ran across looking up the word "nincompoop" in the OED. I was curious about this word because I don't think I had ever used it before, but I was writing something today and had "fool," then thought about it, and changed it to "nincompoop." Why after all these years — in which I've written "fool" thousands of times — did it occur to me that "nincompoop" is the right word? Some nuance?

48 comments:

J. Farmer said...

I thought that was the subtitle of Tucker Carlson’s new book.

JohnAnnArbor said...

Back when titles were TITLES and went on forever.

tcrosse said...

Along with Ninnies, Fans of Anaïs Nin.

Nonapod said...

Sounds like a description of the current field of potential Democrat presidential candidates.

Expat(ish) said...

My grandmother's second worst epithet was "nincompoop" and her worst was "blockhead."

I never heard her really curse, though, and call someone a "yankee."

-XC

Wilbur said...

'Don't be a luddy-duddy! Don't be a mooncalf! Don't be a jabbernowl! You're not those, are you?'

W.C. Fields to Grady Sutton in The Bank Dick.

rehajm said...

Cotton-headed ninnimuggins, for the season.

Wilbur said...

My father used to say "Son, I know you don't know nothin', but waddya think?"

rehajm said...

Coxcombs? Jack-daws? Baldersash! Claptrap! Poppycock!

tim maguire said...

The only other place I've seen jack-daws is in The Jumblies. I thought it was some kind of bird.

Earnest Prole said...

Dopes is the best word here -- a fully American pedigree, and its adjective form dopey is sublime.

Fernandistein said...

That's a book title from 1668

That was shortly after words were invented in about 1500, so people wanted to show off that they could make up a bunch of new ones.

Some nuance?

nincompoop noun
: fool

nuance noun
: using a long word where a short word is better.

Lucid-Ideas said...

So basically a more detailed description of Ace's (from Ace of Spades) cuckservative cruise lines. Behold the ship of fools.

Amexpat said...

Some nuance?

I think so. Nincompoop is always mocking and it's more comical than fool. Fool can be used in a more nuetral manner, such as: He was a fool to trust her. If you use nincompoop, there's no doubt that it's meant to be derisive.

tcrosse said...

"Daß Narrenschyff ad Narragoniam is a satirical allegory in German verse published in 1494 in Basel, Switzerland, by the humanist and theologian Sebastian Brant."

PM said...

In the current landscape, I think "asshat" will outlive our century.

PM said...

I might add that fop, and the lovely foppish, has also celebrated its seven-hundredth birthday.

Christy said...

Oddly enough, "Fool!" as an epithet was a trigger word for my mom. She would not tolerate our calling anyone a fool. Never learned why. And no, it was exceeding unlikely that anyone would have called her one.

Rick said...

but I was writing something today and had "fool," then thought about it, and changed it to "nincompoop."

Too Radar O'Reilly

Should have gone with "numbnut".

Vance said...

I love old school English. The stuff from the 1700 and 1800's... they had a bigger education back then. Read Edgar Allen Poe or Hawthorne or Irving, let alone the English authors from back then.... they had a richer language to use.

We've dumbed down. I wonder if it's because we've added so many technology words that we've crowded out the old, literate style. Radar, CPU, computer, RAM,... replacing the old stuff.

I mean, the Princess Bride has such an elegance of insults without swearing, but they were consciously going back to the old school. This book title is great as well.

Jim at said...

Deplorables. Don't forget about Deplorables.

bagoh20 said...

I'm not sure who all those adjectives refer to, but I am sure they are apt descriptions of whoever it is. Just sounds right.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

Nincompoop was my mother's favored aspersion.

Freeman Hunt said...

I like slender-wit. I'm keeping that.

Curious George said...

I like lickwhack. I worked with the guy who made it up, which is a great story in itself.

bagoh20 said...

I always thought that "dumbfuck" gets the point done pretty well.

And isn't it more than ever the season of "nattering nabobs of negativity"?

wildswan said...

I always liked this poem, Colin Clout.

"What can it avail
To drive forth a snail,
Or to make a sail
Of an herring’s tail;
To rhyme or to rail,
To write or to indict,
Either for delight
Or else for despight;
Or books to compile
Of divers manner of style,
Vice to revile
And sin to exile;
To teach or to preach,
As reason will reach?
Say this, and say that,
His head is so fat,
He wotteth never what
Nor whereof he speaketh;
He crieth and he creaketh,
He prieth and he peeketh,
He chides and he chatters,
He prates and he patters,
He clitters and he clatters,
He meddles and he smatters,
He gloses and he flatters;
Or if he speak plain,
Then he lacketh brain,
He is but a fool;
Let him go to school,
On a three footed stool
That he may down sit,
For he lacketh wit;
And if that he hit
The nail on the head,
It standeth in no stead;
The devil, they say, is dead,
The devil is dead.
It may well so be,
Or else they would see
Otherwise, and flee
From worldly vanity,
And foul covetousness,
And other wretchedness,
Fickle falseness,
Variableness,
With unstableness.
And if ye stand in doubt
Who brought this rhyme about,
My name is Colin Clout.
I purpose to shake out
All my connying bag,
Like a clerkly hag;
For though my rhyme be ragged,
Tattered and jagged,
Rudely rain beaten,
Rusty and moth eaten,
If ye take well therewith,
It hath in it some pith."

John Skelton

langford peel said...

I am surprised.

I thought nincompoop was Meade’s middle name?

LarsPorsena said...


Blogger Freeman Hunt said...
I like slender-wit. I'm keeping that.

----------------------------

I'm taking a shine to it and will alternate its use with woketard.

eddie willers said...

I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

tcrosse said...

eddie willers said...
I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers....


KoKo Taylor Calls the Roll

Phidippus said...

Wilbur got there first, but once the luddy-duddies, mooncalves, and jabbernowls are on board, only then will the Ship be fully fraught and well-laden.

Perhaps the douchenozzles can be accommodated in steerage, if such is available, and if not, towed behind in a tub.

Michael The Magnificent said...

A quick read of the title led me to belive this post was going to be about The Weekly Standard.

madison mike said...

Words fail me

William said...

I see wiseacre in print occasionally, but I have never once heard it in conversation. Nincompoop is a word your hear a lot. Some of the others are ripe for a revival. An insult has more sting if it is served fresh. Who wants to be put down with a stale, tired dumpword.

Todd Galle said...

You need a copy of Capt. Grose's 'A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue' of 1796 or so. For instance "Beard Splitter' denotes a man much given to wenching. A 'Dandy Prat' is an insignificant fellow. Great common slurs, curses, etc. 'Admiral of the Narrow Seas' is a fellow who gets drunk and vomits in the lap of the person sitting opposite him. If there was a word for it, it must have been a frequent occurrence. A 'Dirty Puzzle' is a nasty slut don't you know.

rehajm said...

Wiseacre is in common usage in my home.

tcrosse said...

Wiseacre is in common usage in my home.

Weisenheimer was common in mine, but my parents were from Milwaukee.

Michael Fitzgerald said...

Well that ship is really fraught with...stuff!

Ken B said...

There is a difference, but I have never thought about it explicitly before. Nincompoops are flamboyant producers of twaddle. I think of fools mostly as sinks for folly. A fool and his money are some parted. If you are mostly a source for folly, and it is particularly ridiculous folly, then nincompoop fits. The NPCs wringing their hands about Baby it’s cold outside are nincompoops.

gg6 said...

ALTHOUSE asks: "Why after all these years... "nincompoop" is the right word?"....Well, I'd say it's a healthy, intelligent human reaction to living in the age (OK, OK, the decade?!?) of Media Hyper Adjective-ism...the Age of "extraordinary, stunning, shattering, excruciating, unprecedented, shocking, cataclysmic", yada yadda, yadda. The Age where everything seems so familiar and overdone we have to lower the adjective bar to make even the end-of-the-world sound like actual and interesting 'news'. ...So, 'nincompoop' is a return to the old and more conservative and reliable standards of description....BRAVO! I say.

mockturtle said...

Well that ship is really fraught with...stuff!

;-D

Charlie Currie said...

"Jackdaws" is a pretty good Ken Follett novel.

Hunyuck or Honyock was one of my dad's favorites.

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Ajnal said...

What is "the Trump administration?"

William Chadwick said...

I have fond memories of the Winter Olympics at Ninnehammer.

Focko Smitherman said...

In the TV show "MASH" Hawkeye once referred to the higher-ups running the Korean War as "Nincompac."