• canaille •
Pronunciation: kê-nai, kê-nayl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: (Derogatory) Common folk, the masses, rabble, riff raff.
Notes: Here is a good codeword for all the senses above, useful in a conversation with mixed Good Word subscribers and nonsubscribers. It is a rare word, met far more often in novels than in conversation. It is a lexical orphan.
In Play: The canaille is a good place to rise from: "Miles Overland rose from the ranks of the canaille to a position of prominence among American inventors." Remember today's Good Word is derogatory: "Sue Persillius showed the haughty contempt of a grandee sneering at the canaille."
Word History: Dogs, supposedly man's best friend, get no respect from the English language, as the expressions 'go to the dogs' and the Briticism 'dog's breakfast' "confused mess" exemplify. Today's Good Word is yet another example of this disrespect. It was hijacked in toto from French, which picked it up from Italian canaglia "pack of dogs; rabble", from cane "dog", the Italian descendant of Latin canis "dog", source also of English canine. Canis was inherited from Proto-Indo-European kwon- "dog", also the source of German Hund "dog" and English hound. Welsh corgi is a compound noun, comprising cor "dwarf" + gi "dog", an extreme docking of the PIE word. You would think that the Canary Islands might be full of canaries. While the islands did lend their name to canaries, they got their name from an Anglicization of Latin Insulae Canariae "islands of dogs", from the same Latin word, canis. (Now let's welcome Ben Trovato, our newest contributor to this series, and thank him for today's estimable if arcane Good Word.)