They don’t make idiots like they used to. Once upon a long, long ago, in the late 1400s, an idiot was an ordinary person who lacked an education, someone without professional training, a layman in the church, or simply a private person. Clearly, idiocy was nothing to be ashamed of, and during the day the word hobnobbed with people like the author of the alliterative, allegorical poem Piers Plowman (who may or may not have been William Langland) and John Wycliffe who along with others translated the Bible into Middle English.
After a hard day of being charitable, however, the word would head to the nearest pub, have a few pints, and start calling everyone in sight a fool. That’s how Chaucer uses the word in the Wife of Bath’s prologue in The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer and others used the word idiot both in this sense and in the sense of being mentally challenged. These three meanings were used concurrently until the end of the 17th century when the kinder meaning moved out of town. From that time on, the number of self-proclaimed idiots decreased dramatically, until the advent of the Internet and YouTube.
From the beginning, the word worked as both noun and adjective. The highly quotable Victorian poet, Lord Tennyson, verbified it in the phrase “Much befool’d and idioted.” I rather like it as a verb because it expresses the feeling I get from my fellow-drivers who have an inordinate interest in my bumper and try to inspect it while traveling 60 mph or who pull in front of me, curious to know whether or not my brakes still work. After any time on the road, I come home feeling idioted out.
I don’t consider myself an idiot driver; my skills in idiocy lie more in the why-did-I-wait-until-now-to-do-what-is-due-today type of situation, or the you-already-know-what-your-foot-tastes-like-so-why-do-you-keep-putting-it-in-your-mouth situation. Plenty of people have these problems, but the wise ones keep quiet about them. The others, like me, create blogs and wander around the Internet village broadcasting their idiocy. I am a private person by nature and back in the Middle Ages would probably have been called an idiot by my friends. At this point in my life I am advancing beyond my own middle age, wandering around the Internet village, unashamed, speaking to strangers and telling my secrets. Every village needs an idiot or two, and I’m here to fill the vacancy.
Addendum: No Comment
As a blogger, I’ve never wanted to be one of those drive-by likers, the ones who visit hundreds of blogs per day, indiscriminately liking posts in the hopes of getting liked back. I don’t always comment on posts that I like, but I occasionally try to write something that is spelled correctly, even if it doesn’t make sense.
These days, however, WordPress (which is easily flummoxed by what I write and thinks you will be too) will not let me comment when I want to. Over half of the comments I try to post are denied. I get the message that you see below.
Sorry, this comment could not be posted.
If you are a blogger, you probably consider this good news. But I warn you, no system is idiot-proof. I will find a way to comment and flummox you again. Only because I think it’s good for you and helps build character.