Wednesday, April 4, 2007


I know, this doesn't look like a word, and I agree, but DD once said it was, and this was what I wrote about it then.

Robustious. Personally, I think this is a silly word, and I have seriously contemplated writing a humor article about silly words (leading candidates are sough, piebald and supposititious--DD likes those tacked on "ous" endings). This is yet another example of DD taking a perfectly good adjective and making it into—another adjective. Unless you really needed the alliteration, I'd just stick with boisterous (or vigorous) for the "ous" ending, which is the more common word or just use robust. "A robust romantic figure" is just as expository as "a robustious romantic figure". I find it amusing, additionally, that when you look up robust in DD, it does not list robustious as a related word. But again, returning to the theory that every word has a unique meaning, robustious must either have such a separate meaning (Hellenic v. Hellenistic being my favorite as the difference between pre- and post- Alexander the Great) or else be a mistake of English grammar (robust is sufficient for all usages, and robustious is just adding an unnecessary adjectival ending to a perfectly good adjective). The idea behind adding a second adjectival ending is that it makes it _like_ the original adjective, but somehow lesser than the pure original adjective, hence the Hellenistic period was like the Hellenic period as having derived from it, but not the same as it had been tarnished by the influence of Alexander. Historic v. historical works the same way, where the latter is pretending to be history ("history-lite"), not the history itself. An historical recreation versus an historic renovation. Which brings us back to robust v. robustious. DD defines robust as "1) strong and healthy; hardy; _vigorous_; 2) strongly or stoutly built; 3) suited to or requiring bodily strength or endurance; 4) rough, rude or _boisterous_; and 5) rich and full-bodied". Definitions 1 and 4 overlap directly with robustious, even to the point of using the same words without any modifiers or inferences of fuller meaning/usage. That robust has 3 other meanings relating to strength, and not just boisterousness or vigorousness, does not make robustious "robust-lite", since the "lite" words embrace all the meanings of the original adjective, and not just selected meanings, and there is nothing to suggest that "robustious" is in the style of being "robust" to make it truly "robust-lite" consistent with other adjectival pairs. Which isn't to say that "robustious" can't exist as a word, but one must be particularly careful to the allegedly interchangeable use of such related words. To the extent that DD can provide any examples of the use of this "word", I assert that O. Henry wrote at a period of time where it was stylish to make up words to smack readers in the face with their misuse (or perhaps he really meant that the voice was something less than robust but trying to sound robust--cute, and perhaps the sole correct usage of the word), and Stanley Kauffman should be chastised for his continued flagrant attempts to perpetuate this non-word in an inappropriate way. All that said, given the description of the sprechtstimme contemplated in Moses und Aron it is very likely that the bass singing Moses and Aron will hardly sound any more robustious in his roles than any of the chanting choir or wailing soloists.

Ok, time to kill some robustious wasps that are invading my front door...