Hard of Hearing

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1 comment on this post.
  1. Louise Hope:

    >> paralleling the use of “dumb” (originally in English meaning only “unable to speak”) as an insult meaning “slow-witted.” <<

    The OED has some interesting stuff to say about "dumb", concluding that its original Germanic meaning was closer to "deaf" with the sense of "unable to understand". But they don't have any recent citations with this sense.

    I have always assumed that "dumb" meaning "stupid" is a recent– say, mid-19th century or later– usage picked up from German immigrants to the US. In German (and also the Scandinavian languages), "dumm" specifically means "stupid"; there's an entirely different word for "mute". The spelling would naturally assimilate to the existing word "dumb".

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