Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Rude Awakening

Except for one or two archaic turns, the word rude has remained consistently negative through the centuries. It derives from the Latin rudis, which meant unwrought, unpolished, unformed, or inexperienced.

It has bounced around as uncultured, ignorant, unrefined, uncivil, lacking in refinement, and downright primitive.

So it’s interesting to see that it shares a root with its polar opposite, erudite-- scholarly, well-instructed, intelligent. It is formed from the Latin e-, out or away from, and rudis, untrained, etc.

Also in the family is the word rudiments, the first basic things taught when a subject is first approached. The adjective form is rudimentary, which Sherlock Holmes could have used instead of “Elementary, my dear Watson.” [Yes, I know that the line came from a stage or movie version rather than from Conan Doyle himself, but it’s germane.]

Over the centuries, we have lost rudeful (full of rudeness), rudery (act of rudeness), rudesby (a rude fellow), rudeship (roughness), rudish (somewhat rude), and rudesse and rudity (rudeness).

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