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Posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 24, 2007

In Reply to: Herbert posted by Brian from Shawnee on July 24, 2007

: : : What is meant when somebody is described as "A(n) Herbert"? or "A bit of a(n) Herbert"?

: : : I understand that it's not as commonly used nowadays.

: : It means an ineffectual person; a bit of a fool. You're right to say it's not used so commonly these days. I'm not sure it ever was that common outside SE England. I once knew a man called Herbert Wright who, of course, had to enter his name on official forms as Wright, Herbert. He said nobody remarked on it until he began working with Londoners.

: : Does anyone know the derivation?

: : ChrisA (there seems to be another Chris so, as I'm fairly new, I'll use ChrisA from now on)

: There was a Star Trek (original series, 1969) episode called The Way to Eden that featured space hippies who called Captain Kirk "Herbert", which meant "a square". Supposedly the name came from a petty official on their planet who was overly concerned with minor details. Don't know if there's any connection to the usage in the southeast of England.

In SE England "spotty herbert" was a fairly standard term of contempt. I haven't heard it for a while, but "Herbert" is a stereotype name for a bespectacled weed. The "Bash Street Kids" strip which ahs been running in the "Beano" comic since 1953 featured a bespectacled kid called "'Erbert" - see here: