Tuesday 5 June 2007

Dumbheads or Dunderheads?

We are back to FIDE vs Short, and a small question of terminology arising in regard to the English GM being called before the FIDE Ethics Commission...

Here's the question: are Azmai and Makro 'dumbheads' or 'dunderheads'?

This is the sort of small point which some future chess historian might well agonise over when researching the life and works of the former world championship challenger, so it is good to be able to provide a definitive answer here and now. Nigel Short has written to me and made it crystal clear: "As a matter of fact I called Azmai and Makro 'dunderheads' and not 'dumbheads'...".

That is good to know. I must admit I thought it improbable at the time that Nigel, a native Briton aged 40+ with an impressive vocabulary, would use the transatlantic/teenage slang term 'dumbhead'. As an acknowledged grandmaster of caissic character assassination, he could be relied on to choose a more stylish word than that. 'Dunderhead' is a lovely old English (or possibly Scots) word which displays the richness and diversity of British verbal abuse in all its glory.

Just in case any non-native speakers wish to know the precise meaning of 'dunderhead', my elderly copy of Chamber's Dictionary defines it simply as 'a stupid person (origin uncertain)'. Nigel Short also points out that it is "not defamatory under English law, as it would be considered, in the worst case, to be mere vulgar abuse." That is also my own understanding, albeit only based on hazy memories of a university law course attended several decades ago.


  1. Is it wrong that I am proud that the English language has so many wonderful terms of abuse?

    Despite my nationality, I'm not a Welsh speaker, but I understand that those who speak Welsh often need to resort to English to find an appropriate curse when needed!

  2. No, Ryan, not wrong - verbal abuse is OK in moderation and to let off a bit of steam. The law seems to recognise that fact. However I must say I find 'binge-swearing' as practised by some people on the internet to be repetitious and unattractive. Thankfully the online chess world seems to be relatively free of this.

  3. I know some words for Nigel Short.