At the Wording Desk

In this brief spin on the synonymous merry-go-round of uncouth and boorish rudeness we shall refer only to the adjective rude as applied to persons and offer two rare but apt equivalent attributives.

Scarcely an hour passes when the civilized wayfarer does not encounter manners which reek of low breeding. Instantly one knows the offending, rude lout was the glum spawn of parents who met when both were first out on a day pass.

Because barbarous hoards swarm stadia, arenas and parks and pullulate verminously within towns and inner cities, ever present, ever impudent, ever discourteous, our vocabulary to identify such trash and then label and disparage their uncivil behaviour ought to be manifold and of sufficient variety to keep barbarians aware that we the offended plumb well the untutored abyss of their ignorance.

Step Forward, Odious Neanderthal!
So let us begin with an infrequent adjective that may mean rude and boorish, a stern insulting adjective of ancient Greek provenance, namely: troglodytic. Now a troglodyte is a cave dweller, from classical Greek τρωγλοδύτης troglodutes = τρώγλη trogle ‘hole, cave’ + δύειν duein ‘to enter, to go into, to dwell in, to inhabit.’ Borrowed into English from a Latin form, troglodyte first referred to prehistoric cavemen.

One of troglodyte’s figurative meanings is a loutish, possibly hairy hermit stooped in a hovel or loping about a cavern on all fours, a low clod who lives in seclusion unacquainted with modes of civilization. Thus its adjective troglodytic fits to perfection the rude and malodorous sales clerk who burps in your face one morning when you are attempting to purchase tooth-gel. Merely report “the troglodytic buffoon” to the management and see him cast into the alleyway where, perhaps, his next meal awaits. Cruel on your part? Not in the least. Stale-breath burpings and gross eructations have no place at a toiletries counter.

Contumely be damned!
Contumely is the language of insolence, insulting and abusive reproach that seeks to inflict upon victims the wounds of humiliation and dishonour. The word entered English through French from ancient Rome whose Latin possessed the noun contumelia ‘abuse, insult, reproach.’ Contumelious is its adjective, whose sound pleased Shakespeare. Consider his Henry VI, Part One “With scoffes and scornes, and contumelious taunts.” Among Victorian poets, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, that melodious and syrupy mechanic, has a character in his long, long poem Maud “curving a contumelious lip.”

Finally, if some insolent peasant behind a shop counter lacks refinement, you may descend to quote famous insults of whose origin the unlettered clerk will be quite ignorant. One of my favorites occurs in Henry Fielding’s novel The History of Tom Jones, when Squire Western’s well-bred sister must rebuke her churlish bumpkin of a brother: “Your ignorance . . . as the great Milton says, almost subdues my patience."

Bill Casselman

copyright 2016

August 09, 2016

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Increase your English vocabulary with unusual words about rude and boorish behaviour

Rude      Words

Bill Casselman