• blunderbuss •
blên-dêr-bês • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: No, this word refers neither to a misplaced kiss nor a public transportation vehicle that is off course. Rather, today's word has two other meanings. 1. An old-fashioned muzzle-loading pistol or musket with a flared or bell-shaped muzzle that made reloading easier. 2. A person who is both stupid and clumsy.
Notes: The plural of this word is blunderbusses. You can blunderbuss things by simply firing a blunderbuss at them or by going about something in a hit-and-miss fashion. A person who puts a blunderbuss to use is a blunderbussier, with a rather sophisticated suffix for such an appropriately clumsy word.
In Play: Blunderbuss is widely used metaphorically to indicate a random activity or a pattern lacking focus: "Since Percival wasn't familiar with the special-interest groups in the state, he staged a blunderbuss campaign hoping to reach some of the right people." If you tire of calling the dunderheads in your life "dunderheads", this word offers a change of pace: "Lucinda Head is such a hare-brained blunderbuss, she thinks the Gettysburg Address was where Lincoln lived."
Word History: This funny word is very rough copy of Dutch donderbus from donder "thunder" + bus "box, gun." Dutch donder, German Donner, and English thunder all came from the same original root. The Dutch word bus is related to the Latin word buxis with the same meaning (English box is also a kinsword). The problem for English speakers is that donder isn't an English word, so it's no wonder that we replaced donder with blunder, not an inappropriate substitution for such a clumsy gun. This process, called folk etymology, is a historical change that follows folk intuition rather than grammatical rules.