Here I thought “Nimrod” was a compliment!
By now you know that I’m not deeply versed in slang.
When I read in the newspaper about a dust-up over an email in which a radio news director called a political candidate a “nimrod,” I couldn’t understand why the word was being decried as “derogatory.”
Now I know.
The meaning I’ve always attached to the word Nimrod is “a skilled hunter.” That’s the meaning with which it is used in the books I’ve seen it in. This sense comes from the Bible.
And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. –Genesis 8-9
The citations for “Nimrod=hunter” in the OED include one as recent as 1994:
Towns such as Eagle, Glenwood Springs..and Gunnison throw out the welcome mat for this horde of nimrods. 1994 Denver Post Oct. B9/1
Here nimrods is being used as a synonym for hunters.
As early as 1933, however, the lowercase word nimrod acquired a secondary meaning:
N. Amer. slang. A stupid or contemptible person; an idiot. –OED
When I said I’d never seen “nimrod” used with the sense of “dummy,” I had apparently blocked out seeing it in the most recent novel I’ve read, a picaresque romp by Christopher Moore called Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal:
“The Lord doesn’t give a damn what a chicken does on the
Sabbath, you nimrod! It’s a chicken.”
I’ll try to remember not to call any hunters “Nimrods” in a mistaken effort to compliment them.