Wednesday, January 13, 2010
mooncalf \ˈmün-ˌkaf\ noun: a foolish or absentminded person; simpleton
Etymology (from Michael Quinion in World Wide Words): “The earliest recorded example of mooncalf was in a thesaurus of 1565, in which the term was explicitly applied to a woman. The reference here was to a false pregnancy, to a growth in the womb that was not a foetus. The idea was that it had been created under the baleful influence of the moon. Later, by Shakespeare’s day, it could refer to a misshapen birth or a child with a congenital defect.
“But the figurative sense of calf as applied humorously to human beings (sometimes as a term of endearment, sometimes to somebody who was stupid, meek or inoffensive), and the idea of somebody who is under the influence of the moon (later generations would talk about somebody being moonstruck) influenced mooncalf to the point where it shifted its sense to mean either a person who wasted time idly daydreaming (who mooned about in an absentminded way), or who was incorrigibly foolish.”
THIRTEEN — Imagine the voiding party’s embarrassment when the man returning from the sus has a piece of spinach stuck between his teeth. Should they try to ignore the faux pas? Should they instead find a tactful way to let him know?