Mumpsimus? What is a mumpsimus?
Dwight Hunter,  Chattanooga State Technical Community College, TN
o many kind readers e-mailed me or asked me in person
to beg the question of what does the word mumpsimus mean?
To put it succinctly, each person born on Earth in all likelihood
has been a mumpsimus. My editing professor in college, the late
Dr. John B. Bremner, introduced me to the word mumpsimus. As he
said it, every one of his students was one.
According to Dr. Bremner, the word has been in our language for
more than four hundred years. It means an error long embedded in
life or language, or steadfast adherence to the error after correction,
or a person who insists on perpetuating an error. (See Words on Words
by John Bremner.)
I, for one, was a mumpsimus on the spelling of the word separation.
As editor of a newspaper, I edited copy looking for spelling errors.
I insisted that the word separation be spelled seperation. The copy
editor disagreed. But since I was the editor, I could ignore the
copy editor's suggestion and published the newspaper as I saw correct.
Dr. Bremner put my human pride on the proverbial roasting spit and
toasted it. I learned very quickly to shed my mumpsimus trait for
the correct spelling of separation.
Thank you Dr. Bremner for introducing the word mumpsimus to me.
Now, I can introduce this wonderful descriptive word of human
nature to all of you.