• rapscallion •
ræp-skæl-yên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A rascal, a brat, an annoyingly mischievous child.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a bit odd, containing elements of native English and Latin. As a result, deriving new words from it has not been an easy task. John Galsworthy mentioned that "Soho seemed more than ever the disenchanted home of rapscallionism" in the second volume of The Forsyte Sage (In Chancery 1920). Rapscallionry is an attempt at capturing the quality of a rapscallion in the word itself. Rapscallionly, as to tear about the house in rapscallionly fashion, is an unassuming adjective found sprinkled around the edges of the literature.
In Play: Whenever you need to express the sentiment of rascal but with a bit of dash and flair, today's Good Word is up to the task: "The neighborhood rapscallions regularly larded the windows of all the cars on our street on Halloween night when I was a kid." I'm particularly fond of the English-style noun from this word, rapscallionry: "Fifty years of exquisite rapscallionry had left Siegfried a lonely man."
Word History: Today's word is a fanciful extension of rascal. This word came from Old French rascaille (Modern French racaille "rabble, riffraff"), probably based on rasque "mud" or rache "scurf, rash" (whence also English rash). French rache was spun from Old French rasche "scurf", the noun from raschier "to scratch", the child of Vulgar (street) Latin rasicare "scratch". This verb, in its turn, could have emerged from rasus, the participle of radere "to scrape". The same root appears in Latin rodere "gnaw" underlying rodent and corrode. It came to Modern English as the name of the epitome of rodency, rat.