What a Nimrod
In the first half of the 19th century nimrod was commonly used as a synonym for hunter. Linguistic experts disagree on when the word’s connotation changed from it’s biblical origins into an insult, but we know it happened sometime in the last half of the 20th century.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary tells us this:
Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah, and founder of Babylon, was a renowned hunter. To call someone a nimrod 100 years ago was a great compliment. What happened to the mighty Nimrod?
Blame the Cartoons
In the 1930s -1940s, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck taunted the bumbling hunter Elmer Fudd by calling him a Nimrod. Some suggest these cartoons changed the vernacular of generations of children. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that nimrod became widely used as an insult.
Nimrods in the News
In the first half of the 20th century, newspapers used the word nimrod interchangeably with “hunter” and “fisherman”. Take this example from December 3, 1949:
A 60-year-old hunter emerged from a thickly wooded area near here to report he was okay. A searching party had been combing the woods for 18 hours trying to find him.
Nobody’s sure exactly when nimrod became and insult, but I’m glad this hunter got home safely.