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What do you call a person who is not very careful by nature, one who is constantly breaking things, missing appointments, stumbling into walls, and things like that?

Hopefully not too harsh a name, as if we find it funny.

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You may want to check out this answer for good similar words and expressions! english.stackexchange.com/questions/60299/… – Kristina Lopez Feb 21 '13 at 15:02
"Mark", unfortunately. :) – Mark Allen Feb 21 '13 at 20:27
up vote 30 down vote accepted

There's many.

The person is Clumsy or a Klutz or bumbling.

See here for more synonyms.

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Exactly! Here is the prominent example: Clumsy reporter knocks down jenga tower :) – ezpresso Feb 21 '13 at 15:05
"smooth move Ferguson" – scott Feb 21 '13 at 18:01
A klutzomaniac? – unutbu Feb 21 '13 at 19:04
klutz noun mainly US slang dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/klutz?q=klutz – Tristan Feb 21 '13 at 21:05
Klutz is from Yiddish, where it has the more pejorative basic meaning of “lump” or “blockhead”. – J. C. Salomon Feb 26 '13 at 21:28

Consider using something simple like accident-prone, absent-minded, or careless. Maybe they’re just forgetful, but there’s also inattentive, preoccupied, or scatterbrained. For meetings and such, they could be said to be unreliable or undependable.

Those aren’t as strong as an elephant/bull in a china shop or a walking disaster, or even an accident waiting to happen.

If it approaches the criminality of wanton disregard, it might even be negligent.

From Yiddish we get a whole host of “oopsy” words, like klutz and klutzy, or a schlep, a shlemiel, or a shlemazel. Those all have different connotations.

Some of those don’t sound too mean, but others do. For someone who always has their head in the clouds, you might also go for airhead or space cadet, or perhaps bumbler.

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+1 for "space cadet", my favorite. We used to call someone a "Mr. Magoo" from the cartoon character but that has fallen into disfavor since Mr. Magoo's poor eyesight was the cause of his frequent accidents. – Kristina Lopez Feb 21 '13 at 15:48
+1 for a lot of these, but -1 for "schlep". "schlep" is basically synony,ous with "haul" - eg, "I hauled a pile of textbooks", or "It was a long haul, to pick him up." – hunter2 Jul 16 '13 at 7:58
@hunter2, that's when it's a verb. As a noun, it is (also) a shortened form of ‘schlepper’. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 2 '13 at 8:45
@JanusBahsJacquet The usage I indicated includes the noun form ("You went up the mountain? What a schlep!"). I don't think I've heard it the way you (and tchrist) suggest - and being a "schlepper" would, to me, just mean being 'one who schleps' - like hotel porters. Doesn't necessarily mean you're wrong, but I've never heard your version. – hunter2 Oct 4 '13 at 5:08

"Butterfingers" is a descriptive but forgiving word, and it usually makes people smile in nostalgia, as one doesn't hear it much anymore.

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+1, but this is especially for dropping/fumbling clumsiness, rather than walking into things or the more figurative clumsiness or absent-mindedness that the question was also interested in. – Chris H Sep 9 '13 at 10:07

I have heard such a person referred to as a (walking) disaster area, but I can't find any source that supports this usage.

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I would call him a goof, or goofball. OALEG defines 'goof' as "verb, noun, (informal especially AmE) (a person) to make a stupid mistake". A hacker, jackass, and goonie could be alternatives.

There is an example - 'It’s OK. You’re a Goonie and Goonie, always make mistakes. Just don’t make any more mistake,' in my word collection.

By the way, When I was working in the Tokyo office of a New York-based ad agency, my boss, who was American, used to call one of my colleagues a “goof,” and tutted when he was out of sight. The “goof” was serious and good-hearted, but prone to forget his assignment, and schedule and made mistakes that outraged his clients many times. He made many mistakes, but wasn't stupid.

The ‘goof’ eventually became the general manager of the Tokyo branch of a multi-national ad agency after I retired from the office.


There was another word you may be looking for in the following sentence in the article titled, “That’s not amore,” in NYT Oct. 1 issue:

“The Speaker, John Boehner as he picks at his sausage, eggs and rye toast, his headaches. “Boy, I really gotta start wondering if it’s worth it,” he muses. “I’m being led around by the nose by goofballs like Michele Bachmann, Ted Cruz and Louie Gohmert when all I wanna do is wield my really big gavel — right on the heads of a couple of these ding-dongs.”

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"Goof" captures the 'funny'/'not-too-serious' tone well, but I think some of the other answers (esp. "klutz" (note, the 'u' is pronounced as in 'uh' or 'um')) better fit the physically clumsy aspect. – hunter2 Jul 16 '13 at 8:01

Appearing to be "not very careful", to be clumsy, as well as forgetful or disorganised can be symptoms of dyspraxia (adj.: dyspraxic). Dyspraxia is a condition, as opposed to simply being occasionally clumsy.

Developmental dyspraxia is an impairment or immaturity of the organisation of movement. It is an immaturity in the way that the brain processes information, which results in messages not being properly or fully transmitted. The term dyspraxia comes from the word praxis, which means 'doing, acting'. Dyspraxia affects the planning of what to do and how to do it. It is associated with problems of perception, language and thought.

Dyspraxia is thought to affect up to ten per cent of the population and up to two per cent severely. Males are four times more likely to be affected than females. Dyspraxia sometimes runs in families. There may be an overlap with related conditions.

Other names for dyspraxia include Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD), Perceptuo-Motor Dysfunction, and Motor Learning Difficulties. It used to be known as Minimal Brain Damage and Clumsy Child Syndrome.

(UK Dyspraxia Foundation)

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lmao? The OP is looking for a mild and funny pejorative ;) – coleopterist Feb 21 '13 at 16:32

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