16

In Russian we have the term "рукожоп". I would translate it as "asshands" which literally means that your hands grow out of your behind and you can't do anything right (or do anything at all).

Example:

Dad: "Hey son, can you hang up this picture on the wall?"

Son: "No dad, my hands grow out of my behind, I'll probably end up hanging it upside down" (Or "I am a _____" - i.e. the term I'm looking for.)

Is there anything similar in English? Is the term "screw up" the one? Or are there any other ones? I want slang specifically, preferably American.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

closed as primarily opinion-based by MetaEd Dec 31 '18 at 15:06

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Are you specifically looking for slang terms or adjectives? Clumsy could be an adjective. – Sweet_Cherry Dec 27 '18 at 21:33
  • 1
    @Sweet_Cherry no, I want slang specifically, preferably American. – Happy Dec 27 '18 at 21:35
  • 1
    If you weren't asking for AmE then I might proffer "pillock", "prat", "plonker", "muppet", etc - you're missing out on a lot of great BrE colloquialisms! – Dai Dec 28 '18 at 16:49
  • 1
    You seem to be looking for a noun, but if it were an adjective, ham-handed is possible. – hatchet - Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '18 at 22:38
  • 1
    Neither “all thumbs” nor “klutz” are slang, and neither is specific to American slang. – NonCreature0714 Dec 29 '18 at 7:57

14 Answers 14

45

"All thumbs", according to Wiktionary "clumsy, awkward, not dextrous."

"Klutz", according to Wiktionary "a clumsy or stupid person."

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 15
    Yeah, "klutz".. – Hot Licks Dec 28 '18 at 0:01
  • "All thumbs" is an adjectival phrase, whereas the question asks for a noun ("an informal term for a person"). However, "klutz" is a noun and fits the bill. – Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '18 at 10:57
  • 2
    I think I’m offering fair and not unkind criticism when I say that this answer is not American slang per se, as the OP requested, but rather is a more general English idiom and adopted Yiddish. – NonCreature0714 Dec 29 '18 at 8:35
  • 2
    A klutz is someone that is clumsy... a klutz would be more likely to drop and break the picture in the process of hanging it not hang it upside down. I don't think this term properly describes what OP is looking for. – JeffC Dec 29 '18 at 17:23
  • "klutz" fits the question well, which seems to be asking for "physically clumsy" specifically, not incompetent in general like "fuckup". "klutz" doesn't have much of a connotation of being a bad / useless person in general, for tasks that aren't physical / mechanical. e.g. a theoretical physicist could be all thumbs, and that's why they're a theoretician who works at a computer and/or blackboard all day instead of an experimental physicist who builds stuff in their lab. – Peter Cordes Dec 30 '18 at 6:59
21

If you’re looking for vulgar slang, “fuckup” is a good option:

an extremely offensive word for someone who often makes serious mistakes or fails completely

https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/fuck-up_2

Screw up works too, but it’s not as offensive.

Both of these words are also verbs.

  • That seems somewhat judgemental of the person's character. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Dec 28 '18 at 23:14
  • @einpoklum I do think that, if I’m understanding Russian culture correctly, asshands can be used as a judgement of character. – NonCreature0714 Dec 29 '18 at 8:45
  • I agree with @einpoklum, I think that "fuckup" or "screwup" is too broad in meaning. If it was "растяпа" (bumbler,muddler,wally) then maybe, but I understand "рукожоп" as being particularly about lacking in manual skills. – JohnGH Dec 29 '18 at 20:08
  • fuckup is good. fucktard is even better. – Mazura Dec 30 '18 at 22:05
14

Incompetent springs to mind:

a. Of inadequate ability or fitness; not having the requisite capacity or qualification; incapable.

B. An incompetent person.

While we have a lot of fun slang terms here, this would be a term you could use either casually or in a slightly more formal setting.

I've also seen "Incompetent" used as an insult ("Are you incompetent, boy?"), so it would work to be more self-deprecating.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

11

"Butterfingers" might be a good word considering the context you used regarding the term "asshands". Generally it implies someone inept with their hands, or lacking in manual dexterity.

As a more brusque offensive term, I'd use the word "Fuck-up."

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 5
    This is usually used in the sense of dropping things (literally as though your fingers were slippery with butter) rather than generally lacking dexterity though. – Alchymist Dec 28 '18 at 15:07
8

A bumbler is informal without being vulgar or obscene.

He can't do anything right. He is a bumbler.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • Tharpa, this isn't a bad start, but it's too short: the system has flagged it as "low-quality because of its length and content." An answer on EL&U is expected to be authoritative, detailed, and explain why it is correct. Can I suggest you edit your answer to provide more information - e.g., add a published definition of bumbler (linked to the source)? For further guidance, see How to Answer and take the EL&U Tour :-) – Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '18 at 23:00
7

schlemiel

A person who fouls up everything by incompetence or bad luck. It was borrowed into English from Yiddish which is from a name of a character in a story (1813).

Compare with schlemazel. Which actually means 'bad luck' (schlim mazel).

The saying goes, in order to tell which is which, is that the person who spills their bowl of soup is the schlemiel, and the person they spill it on is the schlemazel.

  • 4
    Laverne & Shirley fan? I don't think this is in common enough usage today to be effective. I don't think most people would know what this means. – JeffC Dec 29 '18 at 17:25
  • 1
    @JeffC many Yiddishisms were much more common in the past, especially in the NYC area. But every so often pop culture will revive one of them. Verklempt, meh, putz, spritz. Schlemiel wass definitely made more popular by L&S. – Mitch Dec 30 '18 at 1:05
6

An idiom, that seems somewhat similar to the Russian one, is No dad, i’m all fingers and thumbs, I'll probably end up hanging it upside down.

be all fingers and thumbs.
To be clumsy with one's hands. Primarily heard in UK, Australia. Tom could never be a surgeon—he's all fingers and thumbs. Can you sew this button on for me? I'm all fingers and thumbs.
- thefreedictionary.com

  • 1
    This is a verbal phrase, whereas the question asks for a noun ("an informal term for a person"). – Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '18 at 10:55
  • 1
    @Chappo I did not think “an informal term for a person” meant it was limited to nouns, but I guess it would be best if OP edited question to be more specific. – k1eran Dec 28 '18 at 11:18
6

If s/he "can't do anything right" not just in terms of construction and house-work, but more generally, you can call that person a good-for-nothing.

Dictionary definition:

good-for-noth·ing
(go͝od′fər-nŭth′ĭng)

noun: A person of little worth or usefulness.
adjective: Having little worth; useless.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • Just because someone is too clumsy to hang a picture, doesn't mean they are a good-for-nothing. They might be excellent at mathematics or poetry or managing a company. – chasly from UK Dec 29 '18 at 22:37
3

doofus or less commonly dufus. Same meaning.

a stupid, incompetent, or foolish person.

MW notes that the word is slang, and that it's relatively recent (first known use 1960).

Further background: there's also some connection to the 1959 TV show "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis". And Hipsterdufus is apparently now a thing.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

2

Noun: Useless Tit
Adjective: Tit-useless

Often but not always applied to males, probably related to the non-functionality of the male breast.

Dave is a useless tit.

Dave is tit-useless at anything.

Probably a contraction of "...as useless as tits on a nun/bull/ram/log"

Supporting link: https://www.answerbag.com/q_view/53418

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 1
    "Tit" seems to indicate an intentional insult. Am I wrong? If not, I don't think OP wanted that shade of meaning. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Dec 29 '18 at 22:36
1

A sad sack is a blundering, inept person.

MW defines it as "US, informal", and says the first known use with this meaning is from 1943. However, etymonline says:

sad sack is 1920s, popularized by World War II armed forces (specifically by cartoon character invented by Sgt. George Baker, 1942, and published in U.S. Armed Forces magazine "Yank"), probably a euphemistic shortening of common military slang phrase sad sack of shit.

The term comes from a military context, a soldier who can't seem to do anything correctly.

The definitions in the Urban Dictionary seem to turn the meaning more toward a depressed or depressing person. But the original context used sad in the sense of pitiful.

  • Thanks for finding that! Unfortunately, I don't know how to do that from my phone. – already puzzled Dec 28 '18 at 21:47
  • I've added the links/detail but you might like to re-edit your middle paragraphs in light of the (slightly duplicated) etymological discussion. :-) – Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '18 at 22:58
1

Inept

https://www.thefreedictionary.com/inept

in·ept (ĭn-ĕpt′)
adj.
1. Lacking or showing a lack of skill or competence; bungling or clumsy: an inept actor; an inept performance.
2. Showing a lack of judgment, sense, or reason; inappropriate or foolish: an inept remark.

1

Adding nincompoop as a suggestion.

A silly or foolish person.

A slightly older word in UK English so not too widely used.

0

There is a word we use called Nixie. It comes from the German word Nichtse which means a slacker/good-for-nothing. The word is very popular among the Pennsylvania Dutch community.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 2
    "The word is very popular among the Pennsylvania Dutch community" - should we infer anything from this? ;-) – Reinstate Monica Dec 29 '18 at 0:36
  • 2
    "Nichtse" never heard this. Would it perhaps be Dutch? – alk Dec 29 '18 at 18:26
  • A think of a Nixie as a water spirit. – Ben Dec 30 '18 at 18:38
  • @alk it’s certainly not Dutch, it does seem to be based on the German ‘nicht’. We do have a word for nothing (niks) which sounds similar though, and a good-for-nothing can be called a niksnut. – Sebastiaan van den Broek Mar 9 at 3:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.