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What was slang for "absentminded" before "space cadet"?

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Considering I've never heard of space cadet as slang for that term, a very vast number of terms spring to mind. – Orbling Feb 11 '11 at 1:42
-1 space cadet is not widely known as a set-phrase. It is not slang for absent-minded, it seems. OP is not clear if what is needed is a slang term for absent-minded or a suitable replacement for space cadet. – Kris Feb 2 '12 at 11:29
Space cadet means empty headed, not absent minded. – pazzo Feb 21 '15 at 2:44

How about "scatterbrain", seemingly from 1790?
Or "hare-brained" from ca. 1540?

Although, it's hard to trust those figures without sources.

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Seeing the title, I came here to add hare-brained, though I've usually read it in the context, "... and his hare-brained schemes ...", which might rather imply ridiculous rather than absentminded. – Wayne May 17 '11 at 16:57
1726 and 1786 scatterbrains, and 1588 harebrained. The Online Etymology Dictionary is quite reliable for dates, and you can email to ask for sources. – Hugo Feb 2 '12 at 9:57

Woolly-headed comes to my mind.

There seems to be a number of uses for absent-minded beyond the usual 'forgetful' - and plenty of synonyms:


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Wool-gathering ... I haven't heard that for a while. – GEdgar Feb 2 '12 at 16:17

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