‘Idionut’: A Useful New Word for Our Times

There is rarely, if ever, agreement among various dictionaries and language organizations on the Word of the Year. Oxford Languages (OED) opened its choice for the 2022 Word of the Year to the public, with the result being a term unfamiliar to many people: “goblin mode.” The Cambridge Dictionary chose “homer” because it was so frequently searched when it was used in Wordle. The American Dialect Society picked the suffix “-ussy.” Merriam-Webster made a choice that is clearly appropriate for our times: “gaslighting.” Collins Dictionary also went for a word suited to our current situation: “permacrisis.” Dictionary.com selected one of the oldest words: “woman.”

We nominate a brand-new word as the 2023 Word of the Year: idionut.

  1. a person who is both willfully ignorant and insane.

“I could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose a single supporter because they are all idionuts.”

  1. a member of a cult, such as QAnon or MAGA.

“I was an idionut because I swallowed every lie I was told.”

  1. someone who supports not only the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, but also the Biggest Lie about the United States: that it was established as a “Christian nation” and the falsified “history” presented by David Barton in his book The Myth of Separation.

    someone who thinks that “God is the one that raises up those in authority” and made him speaker (though apparently God did not choose to raise to authority the current president), that abortion and teaching evolution are the causes of school shootings, that climate change and COVID-19 are hoaxes, that people whose gender or sexuality do not fit his view of “normal” should be denied human rights, that we should have a total nationwide abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the woman, that doctors who provide pregnancy termination should be imprisoned at hard labor for up to 10 years.

    someone who thinks there should be trillions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

    someone who thinks that everything in the Bible (except, of course, for the actual teachings of Jesus) is literally true, that a creationism museum that has exhibits showing a T-rex peacefully munching leaves beside Adam and Eve before the Fall then chasing them after Eve’s sin and showing dinosaurs on Noah’s ark depicts truthful history.

    someone who believes that the reason we have mass shootings is in “the human heart,” so we should not ban assault weapons, that Putin’s aggression and war crimes should not be opposed, that aid should be provided to Israel only if the American hyper-rich are allowed to cheat more on their taxes, that overturning election results and replacing democracy with authoritarian “I alone can fix it” one-man rule will increase freedom, that “you don’t want to be in a democracy,” and is so deeply into following a cult that its leader calls him “MAGA Mike.”

“The House Republicans demonstrated that they are idionuts by unanimously choosing Mike Johnson as speaker.”

Synonyms: whack job, nutter (chiefly British), wingnut.

Word Origin:

On Oct. 25, 2023, Anne McElvaine was sending a message to a friend in response to House Republicans unanimously electing Rep. Mike Johnson as speaker. She was saying that he appears to be an idiot and a nut. A typo combined those words into the wonderfully appropriate neologism “idionut.” It is a word for our times.

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About and

Anne McElvaine grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island. She is a retired public school special education teacher, mother of four grown children and three grandchildren, an advocate for justice and the rights of all, an avid reader and world traveler.
Robert S. McElvaine is a professor of history emeritus at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., the author of 11 books, most recently, The Times They Were a-Changin’—1964: The Year “The Sixties” Arrived and the Battle Lines of Today Were Drawn and writes “Musings & Amusings of a B-List Writer” on Substack. He is currently completing a book manuscript with the working title, Diving Beneath the Wreck—and Resurfacing: On the Origins & Consequences of Sexual Inequality.