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Definition: A person who obstinately refuses to change their belief despite knowing it is wrong.

Pronunciation: Mump-sim-us

Origin: From a story attributed to Erasmus concerning a priest that consistently used the word ‘Mumpsimus‘ rather than ‘Sumpsimus‘ – the Latin first plural perfect of the verb ‘to pick up’. Sumpsimus now holds a related meaning to mumpsimus and will be referred to in an entry of its own. Circa 1520.

Why this word?

Everybody knows a mumpsimus. It might be that old bigot who lives around the corner giving out about the different people that have come in and ruined this land, despite his lawn being mostly car parts and rogue weeds and his heritage decidedly imported. Or perhaps it’s your mother-in-law who insists on putting two inches of butter on her toast despite the cacophony of noise from the cardiologists on her doorstep yelling at her to stop.

On reflection, it seems that the theme of trying to overcome mumpsimistic tendencies has become a Hollywood fascination. Think of Samuel L. Jackson in Black Snake Moan or Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. For the sin of refusing to relinquish your place as a mumpsimus, there is only despair and oblivion. Think of Michael Douglas in the still-fantastic Falling Down – or Clint Eastwood again – only this time talking to an empty chair at the 2012 Republican convention.

How and when to use this word in a sentence:

Everyone will know what you are referring to if you use this in the correct way. The next time you hear someone on a rant about how their country has changed, or how it wasn’t like that in my day, comment on that ‘old mumpsimus’ and everyone will understand the reference.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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