Dissing dons down the ages: a century of pejoratives

What insults have people used to disparage intellectuals over the past century?

April 21, 2016
Dissing dons down the ages: a century of pejoratives

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was most likely that the insult used would be “bookworm” (or, for women, a “bluestocking”).

Then in the 1930s and 1940s, thinkers were increasingly told that they lived in “ivory ­towers”, and by 1960, also had a decent chance of being labelled an “egghead”.

As the IT revolution, video game culture and personal computers took off in the 1980s, the obsessively cerebral were “geeks” or “nerds” – although these are no longer really serious terms of abuse.

“Boffin” has always remained a niche choice, but has enjoyed slow, steady growth since the middle of the century.

The results were ­created using the Google Ngram tool, which scours a vast corpus of books to find how often different words are used.

david.matthews@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard

British dean of US business school also questions the ‘strange’ trend of increasing regulation while reducing state funding in the UK sector