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11 Rare Old Words for the Heinous and Villainous

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Whether you’re watching a movie or reading the news, it’s hard to avoid villainous, heinous, wicked behavior—but we all could use a few new words for the diabolical. Fortunately, there are plenty of older words ready for a revival. Please consider using the following out-of-fashion terms the next time you talk about the deplorable deeds of Dr. Doom, Dr. Evil, or that guy down the street who always walks his dog without a leash.

1. FACINOROUS

The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition leaves little to the imagination: “Extremely wicked or immoral; grossly criminal; vile, atrocious, heinous; infamous.” This Latin borrowing was big in the 1700s but has faded in use since then, though it has spawned a few amusing derivatives. In George Borrow’s 1841 book The Zincali, he writes that Constantine the Great “condemned to death those who should practise such facinorousness.”

2. MIXSHIP

Mixship is a rare, old word for a villainous deed. If mixship seems opaque, that’s because it sprang from an Old English sense of mix that disappeared a long time ago: mix was a word for dung or other filth. So calling something a mixship was like saying “What a total pile of crap!” or “That’s BS” today.

3. REPUDIOUS

Back in the 1500s, repudious was first used as a word for anything rejection-worthy, in particular the vile and villainous.

4. SKELM

As far back as the early 1600s, a skelm was a villain or other rascal. The word comes from a German term that could refer to various awful things and beings, including the devil and a pestilence. By the 1600s, the term was also being used as an adjective, like in a 1673 mention by English poet John Dryden of the “Skellum English.”

5. DERF

Derf is an adjective and adverb that first referred to boldness around 1200, but by the 1400s, it had taken on a sense of boldness that is evil. Not much has been described as derf for a few centuries, and a comeback is unlikely. Anything rhyming with Nerf doesn’t sound very evil or bold.

6. GALLOWS

Gallows is well-known as a noun, but began appearing as an adjective in the 1400s for miscreants presumed to deserve it. The contemporary equivalent would be a coinage like lethal-injection-y.

7. NINETED

This term, first found in the late 1700s, is equal parts wickedness and mischief. John Palmer, in his 1798 novel Like Master Like Man, used the term in a sense that suggested incorrigibility: “So prone to mischief, that his supposed aunt declared, ‘it was beyond her to manage him—he was a nineted one’.” The etymology is uncertain, but it could be a variation of benighted, which has a wonderful OED definition: “Overtaken by the darkness of the night; affected by the night.” That definition could also apply to Batman.

8. FLAGITIOUS

The OED traces this word back to the Bible, and it’s fitting it may have originated in a book concerned with sin—it refers to people who are guilty. A 1796 book called An Apology for the Bible contains this memorable sentence: “You will have annihilated in the minds of the flagitious all their fears of future punishment.” 

9. NITHEFUL

Since the days of Old English, someone nitheful has been wicked.

10. AND 11. MISLIVED AND UNPERFECT

The slightly euphemistic word mislived provides a subtle way of saying, “Wow, are they ever vile and wrong and offensive.” This term has been used in relation to wicked behavior since the 1400s and turns up in Chaucer. A career criminal is very likely a mislived miscreant. A similarly understated word is unperfect, which has had many senses but referred to sinful wickedness from the late 1300s on.

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Here's the Right Way to Pronounce Kitchenware Brand Le Creuset

If you were never quite sure how to pronounce the name of beloved French kitchenware brand Le Creuset, don't fret: For the longest time, southern chef, author, and PBS personality Vivian Howard wasn't sure either.

In this video from Le Creuset, shared by Food & Wine, Howard prepares to sear some meat in her bright orange Le Creuset pot and explains, "For the longest time I had such a crush on them but I could never verbalize it because I didn’t know how to say it and I was so afraid of sounding like a big old redneck." Listen closely as she demonstrates the official, Le Creuset-endorsed pronunciation at 0:51.

Le Creuset is known for its colorful, cast-iron cookware, which is revered by pro chefs and home cooks everywhere. The company first introduced their durable pots to the world in 1925. Especially popular are their Dutch ovens, which are thick cast-iron pots that have been around since the 18th century and are used for slow-cooking dishes like roasts, stews, and casseroles.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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25 Great Insults From 18th Century British Slang
Francis Grose
Francis Grose
Wikimedia Commons// Public Domain

For history buffs with a personal score to settle, "You jerk" just doesn't have the same ring as "You unlicked cub," an insult from Georgian England. And there's more where that came from if you browse through English lexicographer Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, first published in 1785 and recently spotted by the Public Domain Review. The anthology is filled with slang words and terms of the kind dictionary scribe Samuel Johnson had previously deemed unfit for his influential A Dictionary of the English Language (1755). Below are some of the tome's most hilarious, vivid, and archaic insults, arranged in alphabetical order for your put-down pleasure. (And if you need more inspiration, here's some Victorian slang for good measure.)

1. ADDLE PATE

"An inconsiderate foolish fellow."

2. BEARD SPLITTER

“A man much given to wenching,” or consorting with prostitutes.

3. A BLOWSE, OR BLOWSABELLA

An unkempt woman. "A woman whose hair is dishevelled, and hanging about her face; a slattern."

4. BLUNDERBUSS

“A stupid, blundering fellow.”

5. BOB TAIL

“A lewd woman, or one that plays with her tail; also an impotent man, or an eunich.”

6. BULL CALF

"A great hulkey or clumsy fellow."

7. CORNY-FACED

"A very red pimpled face."

8. DEATH'S HEAD UPON A MOP-STICK

“A poor, miserable, emaciated fellow."

9. DUKE OF LIMBS

“A tall, awkward, ill-made fellow.”

10. FUSSOCK

"A lazy fat woman … a frowzy old woman."

11. GOLLUMPUS

"A large, clumsy fellow."

12. GUNDIGUTS

"A fat, pursy fellow."

13. HANG IN CHAINS

"A vile, desperate fellow.”

14. HEDGE WHORE

An itinerant prostitute, "who bilks the bagnios and bawdy houses, by disposing of her favours on the way side, under a hedge; a low beggarly prostitute.”

15. JACKANAPES

"An ape; a pert, ugly, little fellow."

16. JUST-ASS

"A punning appellation for a justice," or a punny name for a judge.

17. LOBCOCK

“A large relaxed penis, also a dull inanimate fellow.”

18. PUFF GUTS

"A fat man."

19. SCRUB

"A low mean fellow, employed in all sorts of dirty work."

20. SHABBAROON

"An ill-dressed shabby fellow; also a mean-spirited person."

21. SHAG-BAG

"A poor sneaking fellow, a man of no spirit."

22. SQUIRE OF ALSATIA

"A weak profligate spendthrift."

23. TATTERDEMALLION

“A ragged fellow, whose clothes hang all in tatters.”

24. THINGUMBOB

"A vulgar address or nomination to any person whose name is unknown ... Thingum-bobs, testicles."

25. UNLICKED CUB

“A rude uncouth young fellow.”

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