• Carmen Milligan

Wednesday Word: Simpleton

simpleton

[ˈsimpəlt(ə)n]

NOUN

  1. a foolish or gullible person. "stop grinning at me like a simpleton"

1640s, probably a jocular formation from simple and -ton, suffix extracted from surnames. Compare skimmington, personification of an ill-used spouse, c. 1600.


During family lunch this past Sunday, my aunt Margaret said that she loved the word "simpleton". I started thinking about the word, and it is a very descriptive term which I hardly ever hear used. I wonder if it's because to call someone a simpleton is a little harsh. I suppose you could use it outside a direct application, for example, "You'd have to be a simpleton to cross the street against the light." That sounds harsh, too, though, doesn't it? "Only a simpleton would do something like that." That sounds a little better.


It's an interesting word, and I am going to have to ask Margaret in what context she uses it.


And to wrap this up nicely, I also wanted to expound on the comparison word: skimmington.


skimmington

[ˈskimiNGtən]

NOUN historical

  1. a procession made through a village intended to bring ridicule on and make an example of a nagging wife or an unfaithful husband.

Oh, dear! Good thing we don't practice this today. Can you imagine the traffic? haha! Only a simpleton would find this acceptable.

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