• crackpot •
kræk-paht • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A fool with crazy ideas or, if you are wealthy, an eccentric with bizarre ideas.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a lexical orphan, but in a class with rare or obsolete crack-skull and crack-brain with the same meaning. The obsolete crack-rope and crack-halter meant "a rogue, someone likely to crack a gallows rope".
In Play: Crackpot usually refers to someone with crazy ideas: "The problems in the US stem from the networks' fascination with kooks, crackpots, loons, and cranks." Here is a noun that works just as well as an attributive adjective: "Lucinda Head could not see that her idea of a helicopter ejection seat was a crackpot idea."
Word History: Today's compound noun obviously is a combination of crack + pot, created from the phrase 'cracked pot' in the days when pot was a slang word for head. English crack is probably the result of onomatopoeia in Proto-Germanic. We find Dutch kraken, German krachen, referring to the sound, and Danish knække and Norwegian knekke, referring specifically to a breaking sound. Pot was borrowed from Old French pot "pot, mortar", which it inherited from Late Latin potus "cup", of unknown origins. (Now let's give Jeremy Busch a double helping of gratitude for his service as a Good Word editor and the contributor of today's loony Good Word.)