I’m looking for a punchy word that is the singular of “sheeple.”

June 24, 2011 | By | 16 Replies More

Assume that you receive the following mass-email at your workplace:

To: [You]
From: The Office Manager
Re: Blue Shirt Day

“Tomorrow is Blue Shirt Day! We are all going to wear blue shirts, and we’re counting on YOU to join us! After all, tomorrow is Blue Shirt Day because we’re all going to wear blue shirts!!

Question: How would you react to such an email? Many people I know would really get into it, and make sure that they wore a blue shirt. They might even run out and buy a brand new shirt so that they could properly participate. In many offices, lots of people would actually show up in a blue shirt, because it’s “fun,” or good for “Office Spirit.”

These sorts of invitations to be like everyone else annoy me. I avoid them. I often do the opposite of what the crowd is doing. That’s how I’m wired. In fact, invitations like this have driven have motivated me to try to think of good pejorative terms for people who are deeply driven to be like other people.

A logical choice is “sheeple” Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Sheeple (a portmanteau of “sheep” and “people”) is a term of disparagement, in which people are likened to sheep. The term is often used to denote persons who voluntarily acquiesce to a perceived authority figure’s suggestion without critical analysis or sufficient research to understand the ramifications of that decision. By doing so, Sheeple undermine their own individuality and may willingly give up their rights. The implication of the term is that people fallaciously appeal to authority and believe or do what they are told by perceived authority figures who they view as trustworthy. The term is generally used in a political, social, and sometimes spiritual sense.

Here another definition: “People of little analytical thinking, spirit and courage; these are easily persuaded, compliant, submissive and subservient.”  Sheeple is a pretty good term with only one problem: it is a singular word.  What  if I need to refer to an individual, rather than a group?   Is there a punchy singular word available?

Here’s another candidate for a pejorative name for those happy blue shirt people, and it does come in the singular:  “Poser.”   The Urban Dictionary defines “poser” as follows:

Any one who does not follow his/her own ideas of what he/she likes. Following no one set norm makes you real and following no one set norm makes you poser. Poser is governed not by the clothes, music, or makeup you wear, but rather by the state of your mind and the conformity to your own beliefs.

Posers conform to the beliefs of others.

A person who attempts to blend into a specific social group.
Justin was such a poser-goth; sure, he comes to school in all black, but he doesn’t even know who Edgar Allen Poe is.

Image by Erich Vieth

There’s the standby term, “conformist“:  A person who matches their “attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to what individuals perceive is normal of their society or social group.”  Groupish is an adjective I’ve often used to describe such folks.  Is there a good noun?

Or how about this:  “conforminazi.”  Once again, I’m referring to The Urban Dictionary:  “Noun; Someone who goes out of their way to conform to trends. Extreme trend follower.”   Hmmmm.  Promising, but not well known.  Maybe it should become better known.

With this, I run out of words and I’m into phrases, such as people driven by herd instincts. Psychology Wiki has this to say:

The phrase “herd behaviour” has acquired a certain currency in popular psychology, where the idea of a herding instinct is offered as an explanation of phenomena such as crazes where large numbers of people act in the same way at the same time. Such people are sometimes labeled with the derogatory term “sheeple.”

Friedrich Nietzsche never wore out from flogging people who felt bound to a herd.  In fact, it appears as though he coined the term “herd instinct,” defining it as a type of psuedo-morality whereby weak-minded people felt compelled to follow the herd, and often did so to the exclusion of thinking for themselves, and they usually did this in a naive effort to aim for the lowest common denominator to try to make all people equal.

We also have a saying that some people feel compelled to “jump on the bandwagon.”  Not bad.  It’s a bit colloquial, but also picturesque.    “Mob Mentality” is another candidate, but I’m looking for a broader meaning, one that covers a way of thinking as well as acting.  A person who engages in “groupthink” comes close but, again, I’m looking for a broader term.”

My search is not over.  I’m looking for any other ideas anyone might be willing to offer.  I’m looking for a word (rather than a phase, if possible) that is well-known and can be used as a blunt instrument when dealing with people who are afraid to think for themselves.

I’m not really angry about blue shirt people (regardless of the particular groupish activity to which they aspire).  What I am concerned about are the many people who hesitate to think for themselves regarding important political or social issues.  Again, I’m looking for a blunt verbal instrument to use on these people, as necessary:  “You are a X,” where “X” nails this annoying and sometimes dangerous (and sometimes helpful) tendency.   Any suggestions would be appreciated.

[Note: The image by Erich Vieth was composed of the following images purchased from Dreamstime.com and used with permission:  ToddtaulmanAnikasalseraGsermek ]


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Category: Culture, Human animals, Language, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (16)

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  1. randall says:

    My suggestion is "Flocker".

  2. How about un-dividual?

  3. Mike M. says:

    Without a doubt, my choice term for a person like this is 'Robot'.

    A robot needs to be programmed by an outside force before it can perform a function. A robot cannot act without a coded set of instructions.

    From Webster's Dictionary:

    1. A machine that looks like a human being and has the capability to perform human tasks.

    2. A person who works mechanically.

    3. (my favorite) A remote-controlled device.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    I was considering the word "sucker," but that is also too narrow: "Informal . a person easily cheated, deceived, or imposed upon."

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    A friend reminded me that "sheep" can be singular or plural, so that the problem is not with the word "sheep," both with the conjoined "people." She suggested subbing in the ending of "person," to make "sheepson."

  6. Mike—

    The word Robot is from a Czech word for slave. Just FYI. It was coined as the term for mechanical men in the play R.U.R. by Carel Kapek in 1921.

  7. Jim Razinha says:

    I use "Foxite" – my homage to those who like to quote what they see/hear on MocksNews as some sort of truth.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Jim: "Foxite" seems too narrow too, because I find that many liberals flock together relatively mindlessly too. For instance, I run into lots of liberals who are horrified when I criticize Barack Obama for any reason at all.

  8. Jim Razinha says:

    I don't like the term "liberal" because it seems to mean just not-anti-Democratic Party. I think Foxite is less narrow than you might think – there are far fewer (by a lot) folks horrified by your criticism than there are fans of the network.

    Still, I should have qualified that it was in jest, thus doesn't answer your question. And I applaud your quest for the singular descriptor.

  9. Erich Vieth says:

    "What luck for rulers that men do not think."

    Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945)

  10. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I think Mike M's suggestion (robots) is accurate, as the word "robot" was derived from the Czech word for "slave"

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    I received this comment today: Immediately 'sherp' popped into my head. It somehow came from sheeple and perpetrator(perp).

  12. Pete Vander Meulen says:

    Steeple. Consider it a possessive noun.

  13. Pete Vander Meulen says:

    …steeple… where someone goes even after the point has been made. Nonetheless, they aspire to new ideas in the name of other authorities. From which truth and opinion may be deduced, induced or merely detained.

    Some names:






    ramiverion the species that mistakenly believes its truth regardless of its facts

    enuf 4 now. Back to singing coke commercials, proctor and gamble jingles and three blind mice in celebration of the Supreme Court's approach to the fourth of July. ; – )

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