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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:54 pm

• contumely •

Pronunciation: kên-t[y]u-mê-li, (US) kên-tum-li • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Arrogant rudeness, contemptuous offensiveness. 2. A contemptuous insult, a mortifying jibe, an intentionally offensive act or remark.

Notes: Today's Good Word should be an adverb or adjective, with what seems to be a suffix, -ly, affixed to its end. Actually, that isn't the suffix but simply a coincidentally similar way in which this noun ends. However, the misperception has led many to omit the 3rd syllable and (mis)pronounce the word as in the US pronunciation above. We should use all four syllables, however; all four make the word much more dramatic.

In Play: We cannot claim that this is a popular word any more but it is a Good Word that we should fight to keep: "I was surprised as the contumely of her response to my comment that her new evening gown was 'nice'." Contumely is an attitude but it is also an expression of that attitude: "Contumelies, unfortunately, have become a integral part of the new 'reality' TV shows."

Word History: English borrowed this word from French, which is what is left of Latin as it was spoken in France. The Latin word was contumelia "abuse, insult, affront" made up of con "with" + tum- from tumere "to swell; become excited, violent". You are right if you hear the same root in English words like tumid "swollen, bulging" and tumor, another type of swelling. In English, a Germanic language, we find the root naming things thick or swollen, like thigh, thumb and that nice, swollen number, thousand, derived from the same original pre-Latin root.
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Postby gailr » Thu Mar 30, 2006 11:00 pm

I immediately thought of Hamlet's Act 3 soliloquy:
"...For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes, ..."

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Postby Bailey » Thu Mar 30, 2006 11:18 pm

I like this word, and Thanks Gailr for looking it up and copying and pasting it from the complete works of Shakespeare site. My favorite soliloquoy is Kate's at the end of the taming of the shrew. My favorite in high school however, was the to be or not to be, but all of it.

I am thinking contumely should be revived, it is a great word. And so apt in so many circumstances. I can fill it in for someone who is stinging from my correction of their mispronunciations, and is looking for just the right thing to say about me. ;))


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Postby Perry » Thu Mar 30, 2006 11:24 pm

And perhaps people guilty of contumely needs to have their comtumuppance? :shock:
"Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening all at once. Lately it hasn't been working."

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