Submitted by cynthia on September 21, 2003

Doofus vs. idiot

Although my husband, who is French, has spent more than twenty years in the U.S., he still sometimes asks for clarification of obscure linguistic issues. One that I have found to be especially elusive is “doofus.” What is the exact difference, my husband wondered, between a doofus and an idiot? It seems to me that “idiot” can be used to describe any old bonehead, but that a doofus is always male, white, fat, AND stupid. I would be interested in others’ points of view on this topic.

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Doofus - when my husband does something that only slightly irritates me and is somewhat funny.

Idiot - My husband's behavior most of the time

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While there may be some overlap, doofus usually describes someone socially inept, while, a true idiot, non-metaphorically, is profoundly mentally retarded.

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This could help provide some clarification of the distinction between a doofus and an idiot: While some doofuses (doofi?) may have posted comments to this post, no idiots have.

Not until now, anyway.

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in german:
doof = stupidly

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Yes idiot, you are defective.

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hey! i'm an idiot, are you saying i'm defective?

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'a doofus is always male, white, fat, AND stupid'
ROFL. And quite true. Perhaps because fat stupid white men have always pushed themselves to the fore :)

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I wouldn't have associated "fat" with doofusness. Male...well, most pejoratives describe males. If you asked a herd of students/subjects to draw "an idiot" and "a fool" and "an asshole" they probably draw men.

Additionally, I cannot think of a charming way to call someone an idiot (except, perhaps, by aping Dexter of the Laboratory) while one can playfully call someone "a doof" or "you doofus."

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I've always pegged a doofus to be more of a playful term yet still one that implies a condition that one chooses-- not necessarily a description of their primal existence. More simply, one can be a doofus because they're choosing to act that way. A doofus is still a good person who just did something in lapse of normality.

In contrast, an idiot may have had a choice at some point along the line, but their behaviors (or may refer to speech) give them little room to be something otherwise.

Unless phrased as "I/you/he/she/we/they was/were being (an) idiot(s)" that restricts the offensive to a temporary condition, similar yet slightly more severe than that of a "doofus", an "idiot" is not something your husband should want to be.

Everyone, however, should maintain a balance of their "doofus" moments.

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until recently, *DOOFUS* was not a word in the english language, while *IDIOT* can trace its roots pretty far back.

so doofus is:
An incompetent, foolish, or stupid person.

while idiot means something similar, depending upon context:
1. A foolish or stupid person.
2. A person of profound mental retardation having a mental age below three years and generally being unable to learn connected speech or guard against common dangers. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive.

as a localism / colloquially? doofus and idiot are used interchangeably, not just for fat stupid white people, but also for fat stupid chinks, japs, kykes, and wetbacks.

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Although I would generally consider the two words synonymous, I believe that, by etymology, "doofus" implies a more "goofy" or careless act of stupidity. The word "idiot", by less familiar definition, is used to describe a mentally incompetent person and therefore, in its more common definition, should mean a person who is simply stupid.

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I consider an idiot someone who is a) not only stupid but b) does something stupid. I consider a doofus someone who is dumb, but doesn't know any better. The difference being, two people going to the will call at a concert. The idiot having done will-call several times and knows the procedure doesnt bring his ID. He is an idiot. The doofus just has no idea what he has to do. weak example, but i'm in class right now... cant think much.

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You are exactly right. A doofus is a person that has a habit of making an "arse" of his or herself. Typically, they've done something obviously thoughtless, embarrasing, graceless, or clumsy, like accidentally tripped their date. But it typically isn't a malicious person. So, calling some one a doofus is saying that the person SEEMS like they commit acts of stupidity, or maladroit often.

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when I think of doofus I think of "goofus and gallant" from those Highlights magazines. hmmm, I'm kinda young.

"doofus" to me sounds like just a silly guy that just did something that was kinda dumb. "idiot," I think, sounds more offensive, like you do dumb things because you are defective.

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