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A Most Useful New Word for Our Times

The word "idionut" as the 2023 Word of the Year? The term for willfully ignorant and insane individuals or members of extremist cults should enter everyones lexicon.
Published:November 30, 2023

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By Anne McElvaine & Robert S. McElvaine

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. selected one of the oldest words: woman.
We nominate a brand-new word as the 2023 Word of the Year:
1. a person who is both willfully ignorant and insane

“I could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue—or refer to humans as ‘vermin’ to be eliminated as Hitler did, say I’ll terminate the Constitution, and replace democracy with a dictatorship—and not lose a single supporter because they are all idionuts.”

2. a member of a cult, such as QAnon or MAGA
“I was an idionut because I swallowed every lie I was told.”
3. 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.”
4. someone who joyfully celebrates the heinous massacre, rape, and mutilation of human beings by a terrorist group dedicated to the genocide of Jewish people and sides with those who oppose and would destroy everything they themselves believe in, such as the rights of women, human equality, and democracy.

This category of idionut is not to be confused with those who rightly condemn the Netanyahu government’s policies, seek justice for the Palestinian people (as opposed to Hamas terrorists), and grieve for the tragic loss of innocent lives, both Israeli and Palestinian.  

“Praising slaughter, rape, mutilation, and kidnapping as ‘the creativity necessary to take back stolen land’ is the act of an idionut.”
Synonyms: whack job, nutter (chiefly British), wingnut.
Word Origin:

On October 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.

NOTE: This is a more complete version of a piece originally published in Ms Magazine on November 24, 2023.

{Anne McElvaine is a retired teacher and Robert S. McElvaine is Professor Emeritus of History at Millsaps College. They live in Clinton, Mississippi.}