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IDIOT

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IDIOT

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:06 am

• idiot •


Pronunciation: i-di-êt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A completely stupid person.

Notes: Today's Good Word has a lot of familial company: the adjective is idiotic, which may be extended to idiotical. You must extend it to create the adverb idiotically, however. The abstract noun is idiocy. Of course, referring to someone's lack of intelligence is considered offensive, so we should only use this word with the greatest care.

In Play: We often say things like, "Only an idiot would try to balance an egg on his nose!" without thinking. However, it is difficult to know ahead of time that the person you are talking to hasn't, in fact, tried to balance an egg on his or her nose. If you must use this very strong word, be sure the person you are referring to is not present: "Judy Side must be an idiot to marry someone who has been divorced five times!"

Word History: Greek idios meant "one's own, personal, private" and the noun from it, idiotes, meant "peculiar nature" or a person of peculiar nature. The word presumably comes from the stem of the reflexive pronoun in Proto-Indo-European, swe- after a long list of changes that can be documented. Idios appears in many compounds borrowed by English, including idiosyncratic, idiopathic, idiom—all referring to types of peculiarities. Swe- has an interesting heritage. It underlies English self, Russian svoi "one's own" and sebya "oneself". The reflexive pronoun in Sanskrit was sva-, with a noun svami "one's own (master)"; English borrowed it as swami. (We thank Mark Bailey for cultivating the peculiarity of logophilia, the love of words, like this one, which he suggested for today's Good Word.)
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Re: IDIOT

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:01 pm

The story goes:
A man (could be me) cannot make something work on his
computer. After hours of work he calls the ten year old
boy next door to come. The lad arrive and ten minutes
later is heading home. The man asks the kid what was
wrong and the boy replies: "It was an i-D Ten t problem".
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: IDIOT

Postby MTC » Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:04 pm

The Athenians who coined "idiot" had a most interesting take:

"An idiot in Athenian democracy was someone who was characterized by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private—as opposed to public—affairs.[6] Idiocy was the natural state of ignorance into which all persons were born and its opposite, citizenship, was effected through formalized education.[6] In Athenian democracy, idiots were born and citizens were made through education (although citizenship was also largely hereditary). "Idiot" originally referred to "layman, person lacking professional skill", "person so mentally deficient as to be incapable of ordinary reasoning". Declining to take part in public life, such as democratic government of the polis (city state), was considered dishonorable. "Idiots" were seen as having bad judgment in public and political matters."
(Underlining added)
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idiot)

An educated un-selfcentered electorate is if anything even more important in today's complex society. Voters are asked to make judgments about all sorts of complicated issues from deficits to global warming.

In the year 2008, "those with college degrees made up 27.9 percent of the population...(but) they cast 45 percent of the presidential vote. These voters register and go to the polls in substantially higher numbers than the less well educated."
(http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/ ... o-college/)
In 2012 less than 60 percent of eligible voters actually voted.
(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/0 ... 01195.html)

Do these statistics mean America is a nation of "idiots" in the Athenian sense?
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Re: IDIOT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:13 pm

Our high school civics book around 1950 was not politically correct. The book defined three stages of mental retardation, beginning with "morons" with IQ's of 75-100, "idiots" from 50-74, and "imbeciles" below 50. Or I may have reversed the last two. These were not pejoratives, but presented as pseudo-scientific labels.
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Re: IDIOT

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:47 am

The word idiot has had quite a ride from a useful word to a useless word. At first it didn't refer to mental retardation at all but only to the relationship of the individual to the public. A private person was an idiot.

When Dostoyevsky wrote his novel, "The Idiot", it seems he meant a naive young man with some outlandishly high moral ideals. I am assuming the name idiot is an accurate translation from the Russian. Since The Idiot was a Christ-figure to Dostoyevsky, he couldn't have used the word in a pejorative manner. Dostoyevsky may not have been on the side of the Church, but he did honor Jesus.

Then our wonderful scientists came on board and chose what they thought to be scientific words to describe certain levels of mental incompetence, idiot being one of the lower ones. At least the word had a use for something psychiatrists thought they could measure. Then, of course, political correctness set in and wiped out all their careful study. One of the few times political correctness has done anything good.

Now the word knocks around with the Good Doctor’s definition, the correct one for modern usage. It has sunken to be a word people use to insult other people.

Rednecks pronounce idiot EE-jit.

Some words from antiquity have fared better than idiot. But some have fared worse.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: IDIOT

Postby gailr » Mon Jan 28, 2013 1:14 am

Another word which has strayed from earlier meanings:

Laid in a silly manger poor,
Betwixt an ox and ass,
Whom these three kings did all adore
As God's high pleasure was.

Once some words have moved on, it can be difficult to return to past nuances.
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Re: IDIOT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:08 pm

Gail, now you've gone and made me look up "silly," and an amazing journey it has had:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=silly
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Re: IDIOT

Postby Slava » Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:02 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:Gail, now you've gone and made me look up "silly," and an amazing journey it has had:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=silly

Just so y'all know, the Doc operated on this one a while back:

http://www.alphadictionary.com/goodword/word/silly


Oh, and by the way, The Idiot is a perfect translation from the Russian. It's simply a transliteration from the title. The Russian word for the meaning of this Good Word is actually DurAk.
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Re: IDIOT

Postby gailr » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:17 pm

Thanks, Slava; I didn't know he had done that one.
See what happens when one's GWotD goes astray after a move!
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Re: IDIOT

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:47 pm

Watch a carfull of people driving down the street, or sitting
on public transportation: all with their cell phones going full
steam; or
Venture down a museum hallway only to encounter six
people sitting on a bench cell phones going full steam; or
Observe six people at a restaurant all in the same booth
or around a table, all going full steam on cell phones; or
See two people, presumably on a date, both going full
steam on their cell phones.
See this and consider the words of Albert Einstein:
"I fear the day that technology
will surpass our human interaction.
The world will have a generation of idiots".
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: IDIOT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Jan 29, 2013 11:12 pm

Are you sure they're not all tuned in to the Agora and reading our learned and witty posts?
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Re: IDIOT

Postby LukeJavan8 » Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:51 pm

Can I sell you a bridge......
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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