We all know what a blunder is; we all make mistakes. Google the word, and you’ll read about some seriously red-faced people whose boobs were blabbed to the world: just yesterday, ITV News reported that “Fifty Shades director left red-faced over gun blunder”; “CDC Scientist Kept Quiet About Flu Blunder” and “Eardrop blunder could have left Valerie deaf” were recent headlines screaming people’s boo-boos. Dating back to the mid-14th century, when it meant “to stumble about blindly,” from a Scandinavian source akin to the Old Norse blundra, meaning to “shut one’s eyes,” blunder means not just any old mistake — but a stupid or embarrassing mistake. Isn’t it good to know that we were making and talking about stupid mistakes seven centuries ago?
Now try Googling boner — supposedly a synonym of blunder in North American slang — and you might be the red-faced one. Nowadays it is slang for an erection (probably derived from bone-on in the 1940s) – but it wasn’t always that way. Dating back to 1912, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, boner was originally baseball slang for a stupid mistake, probably derived from the word bonehead referring to a stupid person. “Merkle’s Boner” refers to a notorious mistake made by baseball player Fred Merkle of the New York Giants in a game against the Chicago Cubs in 1908. The rookie failed to advance to second base on what should have been a game-winning hit, and for the rest of his life he would live with the nickname “Bonehead”. Fast forward to the 1950s, and boner still referred to something a bonehead might pull — not something most men wake up with in the morning. In an issue of the Batman comic strip of the time (#66, Aug-Sept 1951), the villainous Joker talked about his very own such bloomers, and how he planned to turn them to his advantage. “So! They laugh at my boner, will they?! I’ll show them! I’ll show them how many boners The Joker can make! This emphasis on boners has given me an idea for a new adventure in crime! Gotham city will rue the day it mentioned the word boner! I will take the greatest boners of all time and turn them into crimes!!” You can see the Joker’s boner antics in full color at Dial B for blog. Read the rest of this entry »