Sticks and Stones and “Dotards”

Re the sticks-and-stones contest, following the old adage that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”      Remember when some kid would spew off a string of bad words and mean but innocuous insults, and Mom or Grandma would sooth hurt feelings with the little rhyme…which in effect meant “if some kid hits you let me know, but if he calls you a bad name just laugh it off.”   Now like as not she might look around for someone to sue.

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il  has resurrected a good old  English word to toss at Donald Trump in insult: “dotard,” an Old-English word from the 14th Century. This cool new word, according to the excited media,  spurred linguists and English teachers all over the world to research the word—dotard.

Not that the word “dotard” is especially archaic, not to disappoint media writers that want to insinuate that Kim Jong-Il may be more knowledgeable than Donald Trump.  Within arms reach I find a variety of dictionaries, including a nifty little volume called New Oxford Spelling Dictionary:  The Writers’ and Editors’ Guide to Spelling and Word Division.  Edited by Maurice Waite, published by Oxford University Press, 2014.*

There, right in alphabetical order between the words “dotage” and “dot-com” is— “dotard,”   pronounced to rhyme with soldered, watered.    The etymology is from the same as:  doting,  one-who-dotes…as in a doting-grandfather.

It was a fun image to imagine the North Korean leader poring over his archaic English dictionaries searching for insults.

  • The most recent Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2004) also features the word “dotard” right in proper order.



10 thoughts on “Sticks and Stones and “Dotards”

  1. I read that there were tens of thousands of Google searches for the word immediately following the publication of his speech. At least his is a real word, unlike ‘covfefe’ … which we have all had great fun with! 😉


    1. In the beginning Merriam-Webster wasn’t even mentioning the word but pointed out that it was a kin to the word “dotage” when actually their own dictionary has “dotard.” I think its a big problem when the first dictionary people think of is “online” they do a great disfavor to themselves by not keeping real paper dictionaries. Encyclopedias, too… now they don’t want to learn anything extra….like one gets from browsing through a real book. shame on Merriam-Webster for not knowing that and turning first to their web site. grumble grumble, I know I’m an old Luddite…and proud of it. 🙂


  2. It’s a word Shakespeare uses so I knew its meaning, but it’s hilarious that Kim JI – or his interpreter – looked it up in a dictionary without knowing that it’s no longer in common use! Nice one! 🙂


    1. They probably used a Thesaurus looking for a synonym for “old fool” or something like that. What gets me is that most of the “real” dictionaries (i.e. paper and print) actually do list “dotard” in it’s order. Proves my point that everyone…not just writers…need a REAL dictionary.

      The same root word “dotage” is still in use. There are so many great words in the English language that have fallen out of use.


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