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This is a bit borderline I suspect, so thought I'd ask here first, but is it acceptable to ask a question around how a slang term would be received by different speakers? The specific word is 'numpty'- I've got very limited experience with it and it's slang that appears to be from a British English (possibly Scots?) source - and wouldn't mind getting a sense of how it's perceived.

For all I know, just in my small section of the world it'd be considered not too insulting (my small section being Canberra), but over in the UK, it could carry a different flavour to how I've heard it used. I don't think I am, and all my general reading and things like having it voted as Scotland's favourite word in 2007 (according to a statistically insignificant survey by a telecommunications provider, probably run in a very non-sane fashion to give humorous results mind you..) suggest it's pretty innocuous, but I thought it'd be easier to just ask rather than take a guess, which then led me to wondering if this class of questions would work here...which in turn led to this question on meta, since I started being more curious about how EL&U worked, rather than use of the original term :)

Basically, my read of the FAQ suggests this fits under the first point - usage of a term - but at the same time, I can also see an alternative since the question can be rephrased as 'is word X offensive and in what context?' to which you're probably never going to get an answer (esp on slang..) and just a debate that whirls around in circles.

Thoughts? Answers? Am I being a numpty^ even? :)

^ a bumbling idiot, or alternatively, someone who is displaying via his question posting, a lack of knowledge on this subject to the amusement of all.

  • Not sure if you ever actually asked the question, but I'd view "numpty" as being related more to the adjective "silly" than "stupid", if that helps? As in, you're telling someone they're daft, but it can be used affectionately and it's not particularly offensive. – starsplusplus May 8 '14 at 8:53
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We have quite a few questions asking "How acceptable/well-known is [some profanity/slang expression]?", so you won't be breaking any new ground asking about "numpty".

Personally I don't rate such questions very highly, because all answers are invariably highly subjective. The general advice is just be don't be the first person to introduce potentially offensive terminology into the conversation, unless you know exactly what you're doing and why.

For what it's worth, "numpty" is on a par with "woodentop" (a non-profane version of "fuckwit").

  • Works for me, and woodentop is now being slotted into my vocab for later use :) – tanantish Apr 30 '12 at 22:42
  • @tanantish: I keep a fairly attentive ear out for such terminology here in SE UK (it's always good to know exactly what you're saying if you want to be disparaging of someone! :). Woodentop was known to me back in the 70s (here it is in print in 1980). But although numpty is probably etymologically much older, it's only quite recently shot to prominence in my area. – FumbleFingers Apr 30 '12 at 22:51

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