Tag Archives: gormless


I really wanted to start with this nice reel (Irish dance tune) I remembered. I thought it would be easy to find a version of it on YouTube. But no, it’s not. And the thing is, I have the music for it, and I have a tin whistle (several of them, even), but I’m not sure how well I’d play it with minimal practice, and I am sure that if I were to try recording it now at half past 11 I would be counselled very quickly on the risks of disturbing the crusty neighbour lady. So. I’m a bit out of feck. Here instead is a link to the sheet music and a playable MIDI file: abcnotation.com/tunePage?a=www.oldmusicproject.com/AA2ABC/1201-1800/Abc-1301-1400/1399-PrettyBlueSeagull/0000. The MIDI file is about as soulless as you can get but it will do, I suppose, for those who can’t quite picture the tune from the notes. Just try to imagine it done with a proper fiddle or whistle and, you know, some sense of merriment.

Oh, why am I linking to this reel called “The Pretty Blue Seagull”? Erm. Couldn’t even find something with the proper Irish Gaelic title. Really I’m just a bit of a schlimazel here. The Irish for that is “An feilionn deas gorm” (which I feel compelled to say is pronounced something like “a fail yin jass gorum”).

So yes. Gorm. This is our word of the day. I’m out looking for gorm and coming across gormless, gorm maith agat. (Sorry, in Irish that sounds in casual speech just like go raibh maith agat, “gurramahagut,” which means ‘thank you’. More literally gorm maith agat would mean ‘you have good blue’ or ‘good blue to you’ or, exactly, ‘good blue at you’.)

Well, this is my day to be lacking in good judgment or perhaps good sense. Which is what gormless means. I remember playing a gormless Yorkshire lad (and his identical triplet brothers) in the play One for the Pot some 25 years ago in Edmonton: my first experience of the word. This gorm of which one is -less is apparently from the obsolete word gome, which means (per Oxford) “heed, attention, notice, care.” It comes form an Old Norse root.

So it would be good, then, to want some gorm, right? To be – what is it? Gormy? Gormful? Gormed? As @ivacheung declared today, “I’ve always wanted to be well gormed.” I mean, that doesn’t sound quite as appealing as well formed or well groomed or… well, gorm sits towards the back of the mouth until it closes with that soft ending on the lips, and so it lacks a certain brightness. It’s glum, gloomy, maybe a bit gory. Like a name for some gormless character in a Terry Pratchett book (RIP). Someone who does bugger-all because he can’t do bugger-all.

If the contronymic character of that last sentence pleases you, you’re sure to like what Iva subsequently found in Oxford: there is a noun gorm, but it means “an undiscerning person, a fool.” In other words, someone who is gormless is a gorm.


What gormless twit came up with that.

Well, I did just go on about how gorm seemed like a name for someone lacking in feck. I guess I wasn’t the only one who noticed. The word gormless was around nearly two centuries before this gorm showed up, but it was inevitable, I suppose. Suitable sound combination is noticed standing around near sense… is pressed into use with sense. It’s like some gormless security guard being pressganged into helping the bank robbers. Of course you know he’ll be kicked to the curb in the end… Sitting there feeling blue…

(That was the bit where I circle back to the beginning, because gorm is Irish for ‘blue’. Not sure if I was obvious enough about that. Well, I guess by explaining it now I’ve kind of killed it. Never mind. Valar morgormless: All men must feck off. Um, was that too obscure too? It was a reference to a phrase from Game of Thrones and to feckless as similar to gormless and… ah, bollocks, never mind. I think I’m experiencing, as @rgodfrey put it, the perfect gorm.)