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gormless

Printable Version Pronunciation: go[r]m-les Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Lacking intelligence and vitality, having no common sense or initiative; dull.

Notes: Something went wrong in the derivation of this word. It is obviously derived from gorm, but a gorm is a dull, witless person. So, the suffix -less, which usually means "without", is obviously out of place here. Today's Good Word does, however, boast an adverb, gormlessly, and a regular noun, gormlessness. Today's word is very British though US English does have a gorm, which means "axle grease".

In Play: Although today's Good Word is totally British, it functions well in any English-speaking home: "Mom, you are so totally gormless! You started the coffee maker, but forgot to put the coffee pot under the spout!" Indeed, gormless is at home in the home or in the workplace: "Sidney, it was so gormless of you to put the ink cartridge in your shirt pocket after taking it out of the printer."

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from the dialectal form gawm "sense", the English interpretation of gaumr. Gaumr was a word in Old Norse, the language spoken by the Vikings, who occasionally conquered the northern coasts of England from the 9th to the 11th centuries. Since R is widely omitted by many speakers of English, it is easy to see why they might think an R should be returned to gaum, producing gorm. Now, it might seem to make more sense that gormless originally meant without the lubricating gorm, implying "not working smoothly". However, the two gorms seem unrelated and only coincidentally spelled the same. (Katy Brezger's mind was obviously working smoothly when she spotted this unusual word and brought it to our attention.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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