What does "dummy" mean here (in the section Getting Started)?

Getting Started
For novice users, an introductory guide on how to set up your environment to use the HTML Parser is provided in HTML Parser for Dummies.

Does it mean stupid person? If it does, isn't it too offensive to use like that?

  • 1
    Definition of DUMMY 1 c. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dummy
    – Kris
    Dec 4, 2012 at 5:42
  • 2
    The question is about why dummy is/is not considered offensive by readers. It's not General Reference. Dec 4, 2012 at 5:57
  • 2
    In that context you can replace the title with "HTML Parser for newbies" without changing the meaning much. That is exactly the reason why it is not offensive: when we start learning something new, we are all dummies in that field. Dec 4, 2012 at 5:57

3 Answers 3


While the title might initially sound condescending, it is anything but that. The "For Dummies" series of books is a playful take on the fact that most technical books are not really tailored for beginners and, in many ways, made the novice reader really feel out of his depth. Its Wikipedia page reads:

For Dummies is an extensive series of instructional/reference books which are intended to present non-intimidating guides for readers new to the various topics covered. Despite the title, their publisher has taken great pains to emphasize that the For Dummies books are not literally for dummies. The subtitle for every book is, "A Reference for the Rest of Us!".

The "For Dummies" series specifically targets users who want a little more hand-holding and a friendlier, fun, yet effective approach which includes:

  • Explanations in plain English
  • "Get in, get out" information
  • Icons and other navigational aids
  • Tear-out cheat sheet
  • Top ten lists
  • A dash of humor and fun

The "Complete Idiot's Guide" is another successful series that is based on a similar premise.

  • 4
    To clarify, the idea is that those other technical books make people feel like dummies.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 4, 2012 at 6:58
  • 1
    The answer to the question is "YES": 'dummy/dummies" is almost always mildly offensive HOWEVER...[see answer]
    – horatio
    Dec 7, 2012 at 15:06

The SourceForge page says that "HTML Parser for Dummies" is "For novice users". There's a series of books called ABC for Dummies on just about everything. The word Dummies means one of four things: (1) a novice, (2) someone who really doesn't care about all the difficult technicalities of the subject (ABC), (3) people who have no patience when reading technical manuals or, yes, (4) the less intelligent members of society (as evidenced by their low level of reading comprehension).


Dummy is dumb. Look at Dumb and Dumber. A book titled "...for Dummies" is offensive and I find other books to read. I know what they meant but I cannot get beyond the title. There are many other great books that have less degrading titles.

synonyms: stupid, unintelligent, ignorant, dense, brainless, mindless, foolish, slow, dull, simple, empty-headed, stunned, vacuous, vapid, idiotic, half-baked, imbecilic, bovine; there are more.

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