Posted on | April 9, 2012 | No Comments
This word recently leapt at me from the pages of The New Yorker. The context made it clear that the term is one of derision, akin to smartass. It is not, though, a term that I have ever used, handy though it would have been upon many an occasion. Equally, the synonym of wiseacre appears to have faded away. As for wisenheimer, this was an early-twentieth century coining, in America, part of a vogue for adding -heimer to many an adjective. Most of these soon faded but, evidently, wisenheimer has survived a century while wise itself goes back a millennium, into the mists of an Old English from Germanic forms which, in turn, reveal a connection with wit (defined by Johnson as “imagination; quickness of fancy”).