Printable Version
Pronunciation: skæwn-drêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Rogue, reprobate, knave, blackguard, mountebank, tosser, rotter; a dishonest or unscrupulous person.

Notes: In the rural southern US states, this word is pronounced [skæn-êl], a reduction reminiscent of curtsy from courtesy and fancy from fantasy. The adjective is formed by adding the suffix -ly, scoundrelly, as in the cases of friend : friendly and man : manly. -Ly is another multifunctional affix that makes adverbs from adjectives and adjectives from nouns.

In Play: Samuel Johnson claimed that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel on the evening of April 7, 1775. James Boswell later explained that his friend meant fake patriotism, not the true variety. The US administration is so filled with scoundrels today that we thought this a Good Word to explore.

Word History: This word's history is hard to trace. Derivation from Scottish scunner "scoundrel" is inadmissible on phonological grounds. Although scoundrel is now vernacular in Scotland, pronounced [skunrêl] or [skundrêl], all the early examples of the word are English. Another suggestion as a source was Anglo-French escoundre "to hide, hide oneself", from a presumable Vulgar Latin verb, excondere, derived from ex- "(out) from/of" + Latin condere "to hide, put away, store". Condere comes from an assimilated form of com- "(together) with" + -dere "put", from PIE root dhe-/dho- "to put, place", origin also of English do. But, besides the semantic problem, we have no written proof of the existence of excondere. (A big "thank you" and a tip of Dr. Goodword's hat to Rob Towart for recommending today's mysteriously hard to pronounce Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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