Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle

I'll Be A Monkey's Uncle

I find it helpful for a greater understanding of people and their customs, to research the words and phrases they bandy about unthinkingly.
The internet is helpful. For example, I always thought, "I'll be a monkeys uncle", was a recent addition to our language, probably begun by someone that didn't understand the theory of evolution. To be sure, I google searched and found this;

The publication of Darwin's theory of evolution in the "Decent of Man" was greeted with derision and a great deal of skepticism. The idea that man is related by a common ancestor to apes and monkeys was considered the most outrageous of the claims.

"I'll be a monkey's uncle" was originally a sarcastic remark by a non-believer of Darwin's theory and was intended to ridicule the theory of evolution.

The unenlightened tend to be angry, unhappy people. I am happy to be alive and conscious, in this human body, on this dynamic planet, in this amazing universe.

I have used the phrase, "Blown to smithereens", without actually knowing what smithereens is. Is that a form of dishonesty or just ignorance when I use words even though the meaning is unclear? I googled for a word origin, and found this answer at the word-detective website;

“Smithereens” is a good example. I wrote about it less than three years ago, but had to look at my web archives to refresh my so-called memory. Meaning “small bits or pieces,” “smithereens” is almost always encountered either in the phrase “blown to smithereens” or in the alliterative “smashed to smithereens.” “Smithereens” first appeared in English in 1829 in the form “smiddereens,” and most likely was borrowed from the Irish “smidirin,” meaning “small bit or fragment.” One thing I didn’t mention in my original column was that “smithereens” appears to be closely related (through Scots) to “smidgen,” meaning “a tiny amount.” Another interesting fact is that you can’t have a single “smithereen.” The noun only exists in plural form, although you can “smithereen” something by smashing it to bits.

The Word Detective is written by Evan Morris and appears in finer newspapers in the U.S., Mexico and Japan.

Cool new toy for speech balloons.

The daily word for today is, "Harmony." In the accompanying narrative, it says, "Our perception of the world is affected by what we hear. We may perceive only in part as we listen to one another, and there may be more to a person's story than we are aware of." ( I think this would explain how we got an illiterate nincompoop for president.) I had better check the origin of nincompoop.

The colloquial word nincompoop = "stupid person" may be (authorities differ on this) a distorted form of non compos mentis. Wikipedia.

World wide words says this about nincompoop;

It’s a silly-sounding word for a silly sort of person.

Many writers have tried hard to find an origin for it, though most dictionaries play safe and list it as “origin unknown”. The good Dr Johnson, in his famous Dictionary of 1755, said it was from Latin non compos, as in the medical and legal phrase non compos mentis, not mentally competent. But as the Oxford English Dictionary commented 150 years later, this supposed origin doesn’t explain versions of the word that were around in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, such as nicompoop and nickumpoop. The first edition of the OED concluded that the word was simply a fanciful formation.

The late John Ciardi, in A Browser’s Dictionary, dismissively calls the OED’s idea “a clerk’s guess” and asserts that it comes instead from the Dutch phrase nicht om poep, meaning “the female relative of a fool”. He added, “And if that does not work out ... I will be a monkey’s uncle”.

There are no coincidences. I am intrigued by this definition of nincompoop in that it includes a reference to "Monkeys Uncle!" What are the chances of this? I start this page with a search for the origin of Monkeys Uncle, check the meaning of smithereens, find a speech balloon program, start to write about why hard of hearing people are so grumpy, quote the Daily Word and make a remark about George Bush being a nincompoop which leads me to look up nincompoop. Not satisfied with the Wikipedia answer, I search some more, and World Wide Words brings me back to a monkeys uncle!

Life here on earth is, "Out of this world!"

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