Which Cartoon Character Managed To Turn The Name Of A Mighty Hunter Into An Insult?
Answer: Bugs Bunny
Although it has fallen out of favor in general use, most people still recognize “nimrod” as an insult that means the target of the insult is stupid or incompetent. That usage is far removed from the origin of the word, however. According to Biblical tradition, Nimrod was the great-grandson of Noah and a mighty hunter of legendary skill, and that’s exactly how the word was used for hundreds of years; a nimrod was a mighty and dedicated hunter with great skill.
In an early Looney Toons cartoon featuring Bugs Bunny and the persistent hunter that sought poor Bugs, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny made a reference that changed the popular usage of the word forever. After yet another failed attempt to hunt him, Bugs quips that Fudd is a “poor little Nimrod”.
The joke was intended to allude to the fact that Fudd was an obsessive hunter who wouldn’t give up on the hunt, but the biblical/cultural reference was lost on the millions of children watching the cartoon short and they interpreted the statement as Fudd being a “poor little idiot” because he couldn’t actually catch Bugs Bunny. Their interpretation stuck and Nimrod entered popular usage framed in an entirely new light.
Image courtesy of Warner Brothers.