Friday, 15 May 2015

Dummerer - It's a Real Word, Dummy!

Nope. I haven't seen it either.


Noun. Slang. Obsolete excluding Historical. Mid-16th century.
[from DUMB adjective.]

A beggar pretending to be dumb.

Adding an extra -er onto comparative words like bigger, greater, nicer, etc, is always good for a giggle. For example, on showing my daughter a shortcut to her school, she told me she knew a better shortcut, to which I drolly replied: "Well mine's even betterer!" I suppose you had to be there really. Anyway, this was also done for comic effect in the sequel to the classic comedy Dumb & Dumber, which they rather cleverly called Dumb & Dumberer. Still, if we allowed ourselves so much as an "Oh that's not a real word!" smirk, then the joke was on us, because dummerer is a real word. Yes indeed - it was the name given to beggars who pretended to be mute. The earliest use of this word was in Caueat for Commen Cursetors, a 1567 work which described dummerer as a "leud and most subtill people, the most part of these are Walch men." And while you might point out that the title of film is dumberer, and the real word is dummerer, it was spelt in the above work as Dommerer. Consistency of spelling, therefore, as so often in English, cannot be used as a valid argument in this case.

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1 comment:

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