in ,


Definition: Refusal to use anything but the correct term. A person who adheres to strict correctness.

Pronunciation: Sump-sim-us

Origin: c. 1540. Appears later than antonym mumpsimus but possibly from the same origin – the Erasmus story of a priest who uses the word mumpsimus rather than the correct Latin sumpsimus.

Why this word?

While researching colorblindness recently (on the erroneous presumption that a younger member of the family had the condition), we came across an article in the Scientific American by Melody Dye that sought to explain it. She noted the difference between English and Spanish in noun placement. In English, we put the adjective before the noun – i.e., the green chair. In Spanish, it is the opposite – the chair is green. Children find it easier to locate the object when asked in Spanish, as it identifies the object first – unlike English, which identifies an attribute of the object first. In Spanish, the child searches for a chair and then narrows down based on color  in English, the look for the color first and then the object – making the task much more difficult. The Example used in the article was unexpected – the mumpsimus in the corner. My money’s on  ‘green chair’ being the easier example.

How to use this word

Mumpsimus is not a very nice thing to be called. Neither, however, on the face of it is sumpsimus. Think of that person who gives out to you for text-speak. Or the person who insists on the use of ‘whom’ when, in reality, a punch in the face would equally suffice …


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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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