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Mateus 21 October 2013 10:58 PM

'Nimrod' means dumb because of Bugs Bunny?
I heard this from a friend today: before the 1930s, the word "Nimrod" didn't mean a dimwit or moron. But a Bugs Bunny cartoon-- featuring Elmer Fudd in his role as wabbit hunter-- changed that. Bugs Bunny saw Elmer coming after him, and says something to the effect of, "check out this Nimrod." Now, Nimrod was a mighty hunter in ancient legends (including the Bible), but kids who saw this cartoon were (mostly) unaware of the reference. They thought that "Nimrod" was a general insult instead of a sarcastic comparative reference, and started using "nimrod" as a slang term for stupid, and it's seeped into our culture as such.

Now, I found this through the Wikipedia page for Nimrod, but I haven't seen the cartoon in question, and I've only found the one (credible) reference. It sounds kinda ULish to me, and so I was wondering if anyone else knew or could verify this story.

musicgeek 22 October 2013 12:52 AM

There's definitely at least one Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd cartoon in which Bugs refers to another character as "Nimrod." And, yes, Nimrod was a biblical hunter.

Little Pink Pill 22 October 2013 01:38 AM

This etymology dictionary calls the bugs bunny theory "amateur," but doesn't seem to have specific evidence to back up other proposals for the shift in meaning.

ganzfeld 22 October 2013 02:46 AM

None of three amateur theories listed for this word have any good confirming evidence, including the Loony Tunes explanation.

RealityChuck 23 October 2013 01:46 AM

It's not easily answered.

The OED lists the first cite by Ben Hecht in 1933. Bugs Bunny did not exist at that time.


Originally Posted by OED
1933 B. Hecht & G. Fowler Great Magoo iii. i. 183 He's in love with her. That makes about the tenth. The same old Nimrod. Won't let her alone for a second.

However, the next cite is not until 1963, after Bugs (and the cartoon when he used it). It's possible that Hecht's use was a nonce usage; certainly it's unclear from the quote that meaning is "idiot." And many more people would have been familiar with Bugs using it than Ben Hecht.

ganzfeld 23 October 2013 03:28 AM

I don't see how the first one is different from the older meaning of someone hopelessly addicted to hunting. (Which may be the meaning in BB as well.)

Elkhound 15 September 2014 03:30 AM

The "Great Magoo" cite may refer to the man 'hunting' the girl he's in love with. In Schubert's "Die Schone Mullerein", the young miller calls the dimwitted but handsome huntsman who dazzles the girl, 'Nimrod', but obviously in the context that refers to his hunting prowess. But perhaps this indicates a general cultural shift to thinking that guys devoted greatly to hunting aren't very bright?

dewey 16 September 2014 05:32 PM

I think this is a case where a people take the meaning of the word from context and might have had many examples of dumb hunters named Nimrod in literature over the last couple of centuries.

Another good example of a biblical word that is misused constantly because of people figuring it out from the context is "prodigal". "The Prodigal son has returned" makes people think it means wandering or traveling when in reality it means wasteful or profligate.


Cyrano 26 September 2014 07:56 AM

In French, a "nemrod" is still a poetic term for a hunter.

And in English, you have to planes, the Hawker Nimrod biplane fighter and British Aerospace Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft and submarine hunter which are clearly references to hunting abilities and not to stupidity. :)

Richard W 26 September 2014 08:16 AM

... Although from what I know of the BAe Nimrod project, I think some would say it was both...

("Nimrod" meaning stupid isn't really a word that we would use in British English though. Or at least, I don't think so - maybe nowadays people might).

Cyrano 26 September 2014 08:22 AM


Originally Posted by Richard W (Post 1843608)
... Although from what I know of the BAe Nimrod project, I think some would say it was both...

Baah, you had to do something to recycle those DeHavilland Comets. ;)

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