Here’s how the conversation went at work the other day:
Coworker: What a nitwit.
Me: Nitwit! Now there’s a good word. Do you say it often?
Coworker: Sue, I have two teenage boys at home.
Me: Got it.
It’s such a fun word to say. Nitwit. I also love its synonyms: ninny, numskull, simpleton, booby, blockhead (from dictionary.reference.com). According to etymonline.com, its first usage was in 1922, and probably came from “nit” meaning nothing, in the German or Yiddish dialect. I should have known it was Yiddish. So many of those words are fun to say. Yet another source (phrases.org.uk) suggests nit might also refer to the egg of a louse or other insect. “The literal meaning is that the “nitwit” either has no brain at all or just an exceedingly tiny one.” Nice. If you haven’t used this insult lately, I suggest you add it to your arsenal; particularly if you have teenage boys (according to my estimable coworker).