I love learning new words, especially slang, and slang from other countries is even better. That’s why I was thrilled the first time I heard an Irish co-worker describe someone as “gormless”. I forget whom we were talking about, but it was someone who was an idiot, and she said, “He’s completely gormless!” And just like that I knew what it meant—someone stupid, clueless, moronic, daft, a dunderhead, a nincompoop, a numbskull, a birdbrain, a yutz, a drongo.
So naturally the first question that popped into my head was, is someone smart full of gorm? I’m not making fun of it—I’m the kind of guy who, every time he hears someone described as “ruthless” wonders if there’s such a thing as being ruthful.
I ran to my favorite source—the Oxford English Dictionary. Yes, I have some slang dictionaries that I love just browsing through, but the OED is where I go when I want more information. And I found that “gormless” comes from an old Norse word “gaum” that means “notice, understanding”. And there is a noun, “gorm”, that means “An undiscerning person, a fool.”
And then I made the connection that the root of “gormless” is the origin of the name Gomer. How did I not figure that out sooner? I must be completely gormless.