NINNYHAMMERS. Mary Jane is currently rewriting the third play in her Lives of Shakespeare trilogy. She remembered the word “ninnyhammer” from somewhere, and it fit perfectly in the lines of dialogue she was writing. But was the word in use in Elizabethan times? Thanks to the wonders of the internet, she found her answer on the Mental Floss website, where Mark Peters collects and posts on wonderful old words. Here is his post on eleven “old-fashioned words for idiots”. Among the words of historical interest are: “dizzard”, a jester in the 1500’s; “niddy-noddy”, from the 1600’s; and “doddypoll”, from the early 1400’s.
Peters says about “ninnyhammer”: “I hate to play favorites and I never exaggerate, but this is the best word ever….the namby-pambiness of a ninny and the power of a hammer don’t seem to go together, but they combine to make an insult that combines a ninny’s lack of conviction with a hammer’s lack of brainpower.”
Best of all, “ninnyhammer” dates from the late 1500’s. Mary Jane was delighted.