Sunday, May 25, 2014

Don't Be A Dunce!

The term dunce is named after a person, John Duns Scotus (ca. 1265-1308), who was a so-called "hairsplitting scholastic."  The term was used derisively by so-called liberals to mock more conservative-thinking opponents.

My unlinkable "The Oxford Dictionary Of English Etymology" (dead tree edition) offers a bit more:
dunce  disciple of Duns Scotus; dull pedant; dullard, blockhead xvi. orig. Duns, name of John Duns Scotus (died 1308), celebrated scholastic theologian, known as the Subtle Doctor, whose works were textbooks, and whose disciples, called Scotists, formed a predominant scholastic sect at universities until they were attacked by humanists and reformers; occurring first in contemptuous allusions in Tyndale's works in phr. Duns men, Dunces disciples, whence duns, dunce was evolved in the above senses. 
The dunce cap is no longer used in caricature, but occasionally, scholarly pedants use similar symbolism to derisively mock students of human nature.

13 comments:

edutcher said...

So he wasn't dumb, but a little too smart.

chickelit said...

Well, I've tried to coin terms named after people. It's hard to get them to stick without a consensus.

YoungHegelian said...

A calumny on a great mind, by men who were no better in the pedantry department than the man they slandered.

ricpic said...

The first thing that popped into my head is that Duns Scotus wasn't a dunce (in the modern sense of the word) he was a scholastic with the "wrong" knowledge. That's probably how the word was used by his opponents. Today...well, today I doubt any student is ever called a dunce cause it would injure his precious self-esteem. But in the dark dark days before John Dewey brought the light - cough cough - the dunce was the kid who when asked a question in class his tongue hung out and he was made to sit in the dunce or dunce's corner and turned into a CONEHEAD!

Lem said...

later extended to any dull-witted student.

It became to mean the relative opposite of how/what it originally was understood?

It negatively evolved.

Lem said...

And if it did, it follows that it did so in order to accommodate ourselves. Why else would it evolve that way?

ndspinelli said...

I've never seen someone actually wearing a dunce cap.

Fr Martin Fox said...

That's Blessed John Duns Scotus, by the way.

FYI, a "blessed" is basically a saint who is recommended for devotion only in part of the Church; the final step is "canonization," which means, among other things, the saint is recommended for universal veneration.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

You have to admit, "amiable dunce" is one of your better put-downs.

Sixty Grit said...

Don't lynch me, but I am boycotting this thread.

chickelit said...

I would never lynch you, Sixty. Would you like some more rope?

Sixty Grit said...

You are such a jackanape, CL. I hope none of your comments are ever bowdlerized for their malapropisms, as I know that writing them is a herculean effort.

Now pardon me while I wash a praline down with some grog.

Sixty Grit said...

I shoulda written "Spoonerisms" - that is kore in meeping with The Chicken's style.