I have stumbled over yet another word that originated as a way to sneer at the poor. This one might even top villain!
Rascal today connotes endearment, yes? Someone troublesome, but in a playful way. Someone you love despite their mischief.
The Vulgar Latin was rasicare, to scrape. Which is also where the word rash comes from. And, let me just say, you think being equated with a rash is bad? oh no We have only scraped the surface of this particular barrel of classism.
The Middle English used rascal as a term for animals you don't hunt "as game." Like, you can be hunted, but I'm not eating you.
12th century France labeled rascaille as a mob or rabble, and Modern French has almost the same spelling for the outcast and dregs. The scumme!
But, my favorite out of all of this is in the mid 14th century where a rascal was "people of the lowest class, rabble of an army." <----- whoa
When I combine this word's original meanings with the book I'm currently reading, The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin, I'm struck by her incorporation of this word into the philosophy of her world-building. At one point, Shevek is baffled by the idea of nationalism and war, and asks why soldiers would fight for something that has no true value to them. The answer from the high society is that this is what the poor man is for - it's where the rabble shine. *raises eyebrows* She really doesn't mess around in this book; words matter.
The idea of reclaiming words fascinates me. I think we've reclaimed rascal, but not rabble. Thoughts?
[As an aside, the show Our Gang, had over 41 child actors. It mainly focused on the dichotomy of the lives of rich kids versus poor kids. Hence, the renaming to The Little Rascals, I think. You can see the use of both titles on this poster.]
Thanks for reading!