Saturday, August 15, 2009


Greg McMaster’s weather report yesterday morning indicated that a rogue storm was heading our way from Wisconsin. That conjured up an image of a rogue elephant, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “an elephant driven away, or living apart, from the herd, and of a savage or destructive disposition.”

The usual adjectival sense for rogue these days is something out of control, surprisingly aberrant, inexplicably defective, or irresponsible and undisciplined. Thus, there are rogue cars, rogue companies, rogue asteroids, rogue cops, rogue arms dealers, and rogue nations, not to mention rogue storms.

Originally, rogue was 16th century underworld slang for a beggar or vagabond. It may have come from the Latin rogare, to ask a favor, make a request, or beg. In Christian liturgy, the Rogation Days involved ceremonies that blessed the crops and asked the Lord for a bountiful harvest. The Gospel reading for the major Rogation Day was based on John 16:24, which instructed the faithful, “Ask and ye shall receive.”

Over time, the word rogue characterized a rascal, an uncooperative servant, a swindler, or an inferior plant. A rogue’s gallery contained pictures of criminals, and the rogue’s march was a military ceremony that drummed a disgraced soldier out of the service.

SIDEBAR: the Rogue River

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