A Village Idiot

I’ve long been fascinated with the concept of the ‘village idiot’, a notion that is so entrenched in our collective psyches that pretty much everybody knows exactly what it means. The concept of the village idiot appears everywhere from Monty Python sketches, to the name of a motorcycle club, to the almost ubiquitous association of the term with George W. Bush in recent times.

I’ll bet that you, like me, thought it was an idea that has somehow made its way to us from medieval times, to take its place in the zeitgeist as a quaint reminder of days of yore, where every village had its idiot and a nicely aimed rotten turnip was not only completely politically correct, but de rigeur.

Turns out that teh internets don’t have much to say on the history of the village idiot at all. The root[tippy title=”*”]Geddit? Root? Turnip?[/tippy] of the idea is somewhat obscure, and the oldest actual reference to it that can be tracked down comes from the preface to George Bernard Shaw’s acerbic Major Barbara, written in 1907.

Before that, nothing. It’s quite surprising really – I was expecting it to be a term rich with history and colour, maybe something featuring in Shakespeare or Chaucer, but it appears that its main activity has been in the near past; the invention of an era almost without villages as such.[tippy title=”†”]Not, however, an era without idiots, needless to say.[/tippy]

So, as we go forward into this age of the Global Village, we will, of course, need to refresh this term. As idiots embrace technology there will undoubtedly be a role for them to fill, and the very least we can do, is offer them the opportunity to do so!


*Geddit? Root? Turnip?

†Not, however, an era without idiots, needless to say.

(Photo of the Technological Idiot swiped from the inimitable Dark Roasted Blend)