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NUMPTY n. a foolish person

Numpty was included in the 2005 Supplement to the Dictionary of the Scots Language  with the following definition: “a stupid person, an idiot”. In the revised edition of the Concise Scots Dictionary (CSD), to be published in December, the definition has been shortened to the kinder: “a foolish person”.

 

Numpty is such a useful word that it has been adopted by the rest of Britain and has its own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary where it’s given the label “British slang, originally Scots”. Our first example in the DSL comes from the Scotsman of 7th January 1989: “…despite the MacDiarmid-led backlash of 60 years ago against Scottish kailyard numpties, ...”. 

 

A later example also from the Scotsman expands the meaning as in: “The numpties remain. Some are so sunk in numptitude that only advanced genetic engineering, and the substitution of chimpanzee cranial parts, could effect a transformation towards more sentient life.” (27th March 2003). Numptitude was thought, by the editors of the 2005 Supplement and of the revised CSD, to be a one-off coinage. No, it isn’t - as the following examples recently added to our Word Collection show. This is from the Herald of 7th August 2007: “And Scottish Labour suffers from the Perverse Law of Numptitude which rules that those most vulnerable to losing their seats tend also to be the ones the party can least afford to lose.” 

 

So numptitude has caught on and is still very much with us as we see from this example from the Daily Star of 8th November 2017: “Lord Sugar wants the two rival outfits – Team Numptitude and Team Where The Hell Do The Producers Find These People …” Yes, lexicographers need to be very vigilant.

 

Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries 9 Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AL 0131 220 1294,  www.scotsdictionaries.org.uk mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk