The Concept of Mumpsimus

August 19, 2011

Most people have never heard of this term.  It isn’t commonly used in today’s society, but its concept is.  You will do well to learn this word and keep it in your toolbox of life’s skills for later reference.  It isn’t so much a tool to get things done, but rather a tool of prevention for NOT getting them done.  You never know when you will need it.  It is a word that won’t come to mind easily for some people, while others will say it repeatedly when they realize that they doing what will be advised against in the explanation of the word and the concept.  Mumpsimus has been the downfall of more than one dictator, more than one nation, and many individuals.

Mumpsimus, according to Merriam -Webster’s dictionary, is an idea, concept, or action that is obstinately adhered to, even when evidence shows that it is in error.  The inception of this word came from the story of an old priest who, for thirty years, had mispronounced the Latin word sumpsimus, which is a first-person verb meaning “I take up, assume, seize,” among others.  When being told of his error, the priest replied, “I will not change my old mumpsimus for your new sumpsimus.”  Therefore, his error became synonymous with the blind adherence to a principle or concept.

For example, when you are shown that your computer can calculate your worksheets a lot faster, and allowing you more productivity, do you still use a paper and pencil ledger?  In this day and age, probably not, but the idea is the same.  For every idea you have that does not work, there are probably several that do.  But if you are not willing to accept them, then you are also refusing to change your mumpsimus for a sumpsimus.  You have to be willing to accept that an older idea does not work anymore, and move on to newer and better things that do, or you will be defeating yourself in many of the things you do.

It’s a fact that times change, technology changes, and society changes.  Although some old-fashioned ideas and methods still work, you have to recognize what doesn’t and move on.  Learn all you can, and use what you learn.  Turn your mumpsimus into a sumpsimus by taking up the new, and seizing the day.  Don’t be a victim of mumpsimus.

This post is brought to you by the good folks at Dale Carnegie Training of Alabama, providers of professional development and management development courses and information in Huntsville, Alabama. We would love to connect with you on Facebook and Twitter @DaleCarnegieALA.

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