I want to ask a question about the usage of the English word "Bumbler".

The online dictionary Oxford only provides the definition of bumble, so does Webster.

The word bumbler is hot in Taiwan recently due to this article. This is why I hesitate to ask the question on our main site. It is not my intention to stir up any political discussion. So, I am asking on meta first to see if I can ask it on the main site. This is the first time I am on English Language Usage Stack Exchange although I am an active participant on other SE sites. If I use the wrong tags, please help me to change it.

I do understand that once I ask it on the main site, people will see it when they google. That's another reason I hesitate to ask. I just want to know the usage of the word. That's it. Please advise.

  • 1
    Sorry if this seems like a stupid question (mine, not yours!), but I'm not clear what exactly you were planning to ask on the main site. Is bumbler a word? Obviously you know it is, since you say it's "hot" in Taiwan. Presumably you also know what it means ("one who bumbles", as coleopterist says here). Is it "common"? Not really, but 254 instances of "he is a bumbler" in Google Books show that it's far from unknown, and wasn't just "invented" recently in Taiwan. Nov 20, 2012 at 22:14
  • Hi Everyone, thanks for the comments. It's the usage of the word I am wondering about. Every word has different meanings to some extent. E.g., I believe a bumbler is not exactly the same as a bungler. If someone calls me a bumbler, I want to know why he did not call me a blunderer instead. I just decide to hold on to this question for a while. It's still too hot in Taiwan. I heard there have been over a million queries for that word recently on Google. I don't want to be in the center of a storm.
    – Nobody
    Nov 21, 2012 at 3:41
  • 3
    I doubt you'd be in the center of a storm, and I think it might be a good question to ask. Just leave in your dictionary definitions (a.k.a. "prior research"), explain how the word is being used a lot in Taiwan (a.k.a. "relevance"), and highlight how you want to know more about the differences between bumbler, bungler, and blunderer. I think you might get some interesting answers.
    – J.R.
    Nov 21, 2012 at 9:25
  • I agree with @J.R. If you question the nuances, if any, that differentiate bungler, bumbler, and blunderer, it will very likely be well received. As suggested, including their dictionary definitions in your question will be a good idea. Nov 22, 2012 at 6:31
  • I am only interested in bumbler at this moment. What I do want to know is what conditions one would have for him to be called a bumbler. I just want to focus on the usage of bumbler. I am inclined to have only four lines in the question body, the first three lines are exactly the same as in this meta question, the last line reads: What is a bumbler? But then, my question becomes very downvotable and closable. (I did look at other questions on our main site.)
    – Nobody
    Nov 22, 2012 at 8:15
  • 1
    In that case, as the dictionary suggests, the bumbling Ma Ying-jeou is prone to "act in an awkward or confused manner". As the article suggests, he is indecisive and succumbs to pressure. He also bungled up the electricity price hike and blundered spectacularly by alienating his own supporters. Take your pick. Nov 22, 2012 at 17:09
  • @coleopterist Thanks. I think you actually answered my question. At least, I am satisfied with your explanation. To every participant on our (main)site, if you'd like to know more about the word, please go ahead ask. I don't want to block the way.
    – Nobody
    Nov 23, 2012 at 2:04
  • To the mods, I do not intend to ask the question on main site anymore. I am a retiree living in Taiwan. The issue is too sensitive. I rather stop right here. Please tell me if there is anything I need to do so I can gracefully end my question here on meta. Or, this is it. Thanks for the help.
    – Nobody
    Nov 23, 2012 at 2:46
  • @scaaahu You can accept an answer here if one is satisfactory. That is the most effective means of ending your question.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Nov 23, 2012 at 17:23

3 Answers 3


Both ODO and Webster do list bumbler as a derivative of bumble. A bumbler is one who bumbles just as a questioner is one who questions. The headline in your linked article could just as well have read:

  • Ma the blunderer
  • Ma the bungler
  • Ma the incompetent

I can't see anything particularly challenging when it comes to the usage of the word bumbler. Unless there is something that I'm missing here, such a question on the main site will very likely be closed as a General Reference question as the answer can be gleaned by simply looking the word up in a dictionary.

  • Thanks for your brief answer. Please see my comment above.
    – Nobody
    Nov 21, 2012 at 3:48
  • I accept this answer based on the examples here and coleopterist's explanation in the comment above. I also appreciate J.R.'s answer and everybody's response. Thanks.
    – Nobody
    Nov 24, 2012 at 2:48

I'd like to applaud you for your sense of care and caution.

Generally speaking, when asking a question like this, it's good to include:

  • Where you found the word, and why you are asking the question.
  • What you found when you looked in dictionaries.

You did all that – and you haven't even asked your question yet!

To answer your larger issue, there's nothing wrong with asking a question rooted in something you found in a commentary on politics. So long as your question remains politically neutral, and you support it with research that you conducted before asking, it'll probably be just fine. In fact, we have one regular use who does that rather often; for example, see this question and this question.

At any rate, coleopterist has already answered your bumbler question to some extent, so there may be little point in asking that question now. But if this meta question is any indication of the care you will put into future questions, then I'm looking forward to reading them.

  • Please see my comment above. Thanks for the reply.
    – Nobody
    Nov 21, 2012 at 3:45

The OED2 happens to give two senses for bumbler:

  1. The elder of the two, which appears to be dialectic, is as a synonym for a bumble-bee.

  2. The later of the two is as a synonym for a blunderer, since to bumble about is to blunder.

Both have 19th century citations.

By the way, there are surprisingly many local synonyms for the common bumblebee around the English-speaking world. I don’t just mean spelling it as one word or two (bumblebee, bumble bee), nor with or without a hyphen (bumble-bee), but rather different words altogether. These include not just a bumbler but also a bumbard, bumbart, dog-bee, humblebee, foggie, hummel-bee, busy bee, a dor — and of course now rather famously, a dumbledor or dumbledore:

He battled with the Dumbledors,
the Hummerhorns, and Honeybees,
and won the Golden Honeycomb;
and running home on sunny seas
in ship of leaves and gossamer
with blossom for a canopy,
he sat and sang, and furbished up
and burnished up his panoply.

That is taken from the poem "Errantry", by J.R.R. Tolkien, which was first published in 1933.

  • Who wrote that poem?
    – J.R.
    Nov 21, 2012 at 2:23
  • 2
    @J.R. This learnèd gentleman, of course. Try to get the recording of the Professor reciting the whole poem. It was meant as a sort of show-off piece with all its intricate high jinks and poetic devices. It has a unique meter, very very tricky. Read what Tom Shippey has to say about it, too.
    – tchrist Mod
    Nov 21, 2012 at 2:26
  • "Too many notes."
    – MetaEd
    Nov 21, 2012 at 23:19

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