Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, has fired his first shot in the election campaign with a personal attack on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Johnson described Corbyn as a “mutton-headed, old mugwump”.
The problem for Old Etonian Johnston, however, is that people who use archaic 19th century words are seen as arrogant relics of an outdated 19th century class system. They have to be reminded that we are in the 21st century and are less deferential to old Etonians and public school boy verbiage.
Does Boris Johnson know what Mugwump means?
Standard dictionary definitions say a mugwump is someone who remains distant or independent, especially in politics.
A better definition is that a mugwump is an individual who is above tribal or party politics, rather than politics in general.
The word was first used for 19th century Republicans, in the USA, who switched support to the Democrats.
When Boris Johnson says of the politically committed Corbyn: ‘He may be a mutton-headed old mugwump, but he is probably harmless’, Johnson clearly does not understand the meaning of the word. However its use allows Johnson to indulge his old Etonian liking for archaic 19th century words.
Is Boris the Wugwump of the feudal system?
Mugwump is not to be confused with wugwump, a street slang expression for someone who continues past their prime especially applied to ageing hippies, rockers and musicians.