Salutations, you beautiful thing, you, and thank you for joining me once again. No, I’m not sick, and it’s not the mumps. In fact, cast the viral infection that affects the salivary glands, easily preventable by vaccination FAR from your mind, as we explore today’s word: mumpsimus.
‘Mumpsimus’ is a word to describe ‘a stubborn person who insists on making an error in spite of being shown that it is wrong’. Okay, bring the mumps back into your mind as I provide you with this example: you might say, ‘Geraldine is being a real mumpsimus - she insists on not vaccinating young Sammy for mumps even though we’ve given her numerous pamphlets detailing scientific research, procedures and outcomes!’. Okay, you can forget the mumps again now. Thank goodness none of us know a mumpsimus like that, right?
The origin of this word is rather clever - it’s a malapropism, or incorrect but amusing adaption of the word ‘sumpsimus’ which means ‘adherence to or persistence in using a strictly correct term in rejection of a more common, but technically incorrect, form. The story goes that an illiterate priest used ‘mumpsimus’ instead of ‘sumpsimus’ during mass, and when someone attempted to correct him, he replied that he ‘would not change his old mumpsimus for his critic’s new sumpsimus’.
Perhaps the first time we see it in writing is 1530, where William Tyndale's book ‘Practice of Prelates’ states that the men whom Cardinal Wolsey had asked to find reasons why Catherine of Aragon was not truly the wife of King Henry VIII of England were "all lawyers, and other doctors, mumpsimuses of divinity”’. An excellent use, I think you’ll agree. In 1883, John Burgon commented on errors in translations in the bible, ‘If men prefer their 'mumpsimus' to our 'sumpsimus', let them by all means have it: but pray let them keep their rubbish to themselves—and at least leave our SAVIOUR's words alone.’ Oof. Heated stuff.
Isn’t language wonderful?
Written by Taylor Davidson, Read by Zane C Weber
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