I admit it, I am the not-so-proud owner of 3 Dummy books. My first one, “iMac for Dummies,” was purchased after I took the PC to MAC plunge several years back. Although Mac products are supposed to be so easy even a child can use them (I read that somewhere), I figured since I couldn’t find a right-click button on the Mighty Mouse, I would eventually need help.
Despite the fact that I have actually found these books to be quite helpful, I have never really come to peace with their titles. When they first started coming out, I really resisted them. I mean, why would I buy a book that started out insulting me? Who’s calling me a dummy?
Then I came upon The Idiot’s Guides series and I thought “what idiot would think he could sell books calling his customers idiots?” I decided right there and then to never buy one. I decided that anyone who buys an Idiot’s Guide is an idiot, and so much so he/she doesn’t even know it!
With the proliferation of “Idiot” books came a personal epiphany, maybe being a “Dummy” is not so bad….You can picture a loving boyfriend calling his girlfriend a dummy while sweetly wiping away her tears at the movies. Or, someone reassuring a friend: “of course you can call me anytime when you need to talk, you dummy”. I don’t think you can really feel insulted if someone yells “You dummy”, unless if you are 5 years old.
On my 1 to 10 insult scale, dummy comes in at 1 and idiot makes it to 10, if I exclude really bad words. Webster’s dictionary defines dummy as “a stupid” person, and idiot as a “very stupid person”. The “very” does it for me. For example, if back during the Bush years we were doing one of those association questions on the SAT, we would be instructed to find the best match as follows:
Dummy is to idiot, what:
A. Bush is to Rumsfeld
B. Kerry is to Bush
C. Powell is to Rice
D. Rice is to Ashcroft
E. All of the above
F. None of the above
But let’s not dumb down the arguments here by involving politics. I think most people would agree that being called an “idiot” is a true insult. I was wondering about the relative market share of the “Dummy” vs. “The Idiot’s” self-help books. I would hope, for the sake of our collective self-esteem that Dummies outsell Idiots. I confess I googled the question, but couldn’t find a thing.
What a dummy!!!
Note: Originally published Oct. 27, 2011