Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fool Me Once . . .

A fool is a simpleton, someone who acts in a stupid manner, a person deficient in intelligence or judgment. The explosive -f- at the start of the word helps to make it sound like a contemptuous insult.

It started out as the Latin word follis, a bellows. Bellows are used to increase the heat of a fire by force-feeding it oxygen. In a portable bellows, two projections are grasped, one in each hand, and with a pumping motion, air enters one end of the bellows, is compressed in a (usually) leather bag, and is expelled forcefully through a nozzle. To a blacksmith, it is an essential tool.

In the Late Latin era, the word was extended to mean a windbag or an airhead -- therefore, a fool. As William Caxton put it in 1481, “There ben more fooles than wysemen.”

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