Isn’t it amazing how many words we have for impugning the character or intelligence of our fellow humans, even without entering into the realms of the obscene? Here are a few of my favourites from around the world. Some of them have been around for quite a time.
- Bozo American slang, apparently originally meaning person, fellow, but now used as a term of abuse. A number of etymologies have been suggested
- From Spanish vosotros meaning “you (plural)”
- From the character of Bozo the Clown, popular in the USA in the 1920s
- From Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (1033-1109), who presented many of his treatises as dialogues between Anselm and Boso, who always got things wrong
- Dilly An adjective, which is apparently a blend of daft and silly. OED’s earliest citation comes from an 1873 glossary of words and phrases used in Somerset.
- Dingbat A word with many different meanings, including tramp, hobo, money, thingummy and of course more recently the name for a miniature icon or symbol. The first OED citation for its use meaning a fool is from 1911.
- Drongo – actually the name of a family of birds. See the picture below. The word apparently comes from Malagasy. Why the word has been taken up by Australians to mean an idiot, I do not know.
- Dweeb An American term, roughly equivalent to geek or nerd. OED’s first citation is from 1982. The suggested etymology is a little vague, but may have something to do with the words dwarf and feeble.
- Wangbadan A pretty strong Chinese term of abuse, often translated as “turtle’s egg”. The term wang ba really means “neglectful of (the) eight (virtues of filial piety)”, therefore a reprobate. The turtle business seems to come from the traditional Chinese belief that turtles do not beget their own offspring.