"village idiot"

1
vote

Out of context--please explain usage if there is more than one way to express this.

5050 views
updated DIC 7, 2009
posted by rboots

6 Answers

2
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The village idiot is what it says, the idiot (fool) who lives in the village. Actually, it is not a nice expression to use as it usually refers to someone who may be a little "mentally impaired" (backward).

In Spanish, it is el tonto del pueblo.

updated DIC 5, 2009
posted by 00f2b5a1
I would like to reinforce that you should generally not use this term. It is derogatory and offensive, particularly because it makes fun of mental retardation.
2
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I agree that the term is a derogatory term, but something useful might be gleaned from its historical usage to apply to modern mental health care.

The term village idiot carries the connotation that that person was recognized as a member of the village. His care (no matter how poor the quality) was a responsibility shared by all members of the village.

It's a poignant contrast to the modern movement towards dumping the mentally ill out onto the streets to fend for themselves rather than providing the necessary resources to the facilities that care for them.

updated DIC 5, 2009
edited by 0074b507
posted by 0074b507
Great point, Q.
0
votes

Having been corrected by two people that I respect highly- Marianne and Janice, and considering the initial comments of Quentin, whom I also respect, I am certain that there is something to what they are saying and I've just not been exposed to the term the way they are saying. But that's the beauty of this place- it gives us a chance to learn new things, and it's not always just about español.

For what it's worth, the last use that I recall of the expression in question was on bumper stickers frequently seen from 2000-2008:

Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot

Those mean-spirited, unkind, hate-filled words have undoubtedly clouded my perception of the term.

updated DIC 7, 2009
posted by Goyo
I agree with you, Greg, that the current term means "the stupidest guy in town/"
0
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The term village idiot carries the connotation that that person was recognized as a member of the village. His care (no matter how poor the quality) was a responsibility shared by all members of the village.

Quentin, respectfully, I think you have read a lot of romantic idealism into a very derogatory phrase. People don't use the term "the village idiot" with any thought whatsoever of communal care of said individual.

The village idiot is the stupidest guy in town. He's the one guy that you know will show up at every event making a fool of himself. He is the laughingstock of the entire community for his foolish dreams, discourse, and deeds.

updated DIC 5, 2009
posted by Goyo
I think Q meant the word's historical meaning and not what it means to us today.
Yes, I'm quite aware of it's current applications as I often think of it when writing responses from the dunce corner.
0
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Actually, and speaking as someone who does live in an English village, surrounded by other English villages, the term "Village Idiot" here is used with some affection.

In using it, we are in effect saying "OK, he may be an idiot, but he is OUR idiot" - and we do still tend to be quite protective towards them.

I doubt, though, that it is used in the same way in larger towns and cities, so yes, be careful how you use it.

updated DIC 5, 2009
posted by sheila-foster
0
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Oh my, Goyo......you have overlooked the most important part of what Quentin was expressing...

.....but something useful might be gleaned from its historical usage to apply to modern mental health care.

The "bold" and the "italics" are mine...

I have personal experience of the historical understanding of this term. Of course it has its roots in Europe...Do we even have "villages" - as such - in the US, for example?

Of course you are correct that the words are totally derogotory.

And to be sure, the village idiots of so many years ago might also not always have lived in a nice village and been subjected perhaps, as is the way of the world, I guess, to all sorts of demeaning and cruel treatment, too.

I have a final question for you. You wrote>

The village idiot is the stupidest guy in town. He's the one guy that you know will show up at every event making a fool of himself. He is the laughingstock of the entire community for his foolish dreams, discourse, and deeds.

I am not really sure that we call such people as you describe "village" idiots, but rather just "idiots" or "turkeys" or "jerks" or some other derogotory term. Or have I been living in a bigger town too long to hear that term applied??

updated DIC 5, 2009
posted by Janice