• berk •
bêrk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A fool, an idiot, an incompetent, stupid, or annoying person. 2. A term of abuse for a man.
Notes: Berk is purely British for reasons that will become clear in the Word History. It is often confused with the verb burke and spelled burk or even burke. Associate it with jerk and you will be OK in the US or UK. It is a lexical orphan without derivational family.
In Play: The British, if fact, might use it where Americans use jerk: "Peabody was the complete berk who suggested we develop an ejection seat for helicopters." Ditto: "Don't be such a berk; Peabody is now president of the company!"
Word History: This word originated as a clipping for Old Berkshire Hunt, a fox-hunting association established in 1830 and now based in Oxfordshire. It is used in cockney rhyming slang for (if you'll pardon the expression) cunt. Cockney rhyming slang contains hundreds of expressions that are often reduced to one word. Porky pie, the rhyming slang for lie, is most often reduced to porky, e.g. "Rathbottom tells far too many porkies to be trusted." Danny Glover is rhyming slang for lover: "How's my little Danny doing today?" Berkshire Hunt was carried a step further by clipping Berkshire to berk. (Today's bad Good Word came up in a discussion of burke in the Alpha Agora between Debbie Moggio, Brian Goff, and Tony Bowden.)
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