Printable Version
Pronunciation: owf Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A clumsy, awkward person who is not very bright.

Notes: Most speakers have given up on the plural oaves with this noun, even those who still say loaf : loaves. We rather like it but oafs seems to be the winner here. The adjective, oafish, still stands, as do the adverb, oafishly, and the noun, oafishness.

In Play: Smart people can be awkward, but to be an oaf you must be both awkward and a bit dimwitted: "Tutwiler, the clumsy oaf, tied his shoestrings together this morning and nearly tumbled down the stairs." China shops are obvious places oafs need to avoid: "I wouldn't want to take that oaf Tutwiler to a china shop without at least two credit cards in my purse."

Word History: Did you ever wonder what happened to the root alb- "white" that we find in albino and albumin (egg white) in the Germanic languages? In English it became elf, but in Old Norse it turned into alfr "elf", which English borrowed during one of the Norsemen's uninvited visits in the Middle Ages. This left English with a problem, what to do with elf. Well, they decided to keep elf as it was, but they honed alfr into today's Good word. It would seem that both these words come from an ancient Germanic word albaz or albiz, meaning a white ghost or spirit.

Dr. Goodword,

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