On Nincompoop

Being familiar with the word nincompoop is probably more of a sign of one’s age than of being up to on the latest linguistics. Nonetheless, there is nothing wrong with reminiscing the world of words.

To my surprise, nincompoop is an official word – thus not slang – so here are a few official definitions:

  • a fool or simpleton
  • a stupid person; fool; idiot
  • a silly, foolish, or stupid person
  • one deficient in judgment and good sense

The great American orator Mo Howard even used some of the following nincompoop’s synonyms: ass, blockhead, boob, clod, coot, cuckoo, ding-a-ling, dingbat, ding-dong, dip, dipstick, dolt, doofus, dope, dork, dweeb, dumbass, dunce, fathead, fool, goof, half-wit, idiot, imbecile, jackass, jerk, lummox, lunatic, moron, nerd, ninny, nitwit, numbskull, numskull, nut, nutcase, oaf, peckerhead, plonker, schmo, schmuck, simpleton, turkey, witling, and yo-yo.

The British throw in berk, charley, charlie, git, nit, plank, pillock, and thicko. Other languages add fjols (Danish), uilskuiken (Dutch), nigaud (French), trottel (German), sempliciotto (Italian), mentecato (Spanish), numpty (Scotish), and dumhuvud (Swedish).

As one can imagine, nincompoop’s etymology and history brings forth more information.

  • Latin’s non compos mentis, not a sound mind, is a legal phrase
  • French ne comprend pas means “he does not understand.”
  • In his 1676 play The Plain Dealer, British playwright William Wycherley has one character calling another a “senseless, impertinent, quibbling, drivelling, feeble, paralytic, impotent, fumbling, frigid nincompoop.”

Now we know more about nincompoop – and yes, timely with the words of Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan who recently referred to Sarah Palin as a nincompoop. Given the information above, her word choice seems appropriate. Besides, Sarah Palin continues to champion nincompoopery – the characteristic actions of a nincompoop.