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You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: farouche

The Baltimore Sun

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


Among the words for difficult people, we have, from the French, farouche (pronounced fuh-ROOSH), which covers a spectrum of difficulty.

At one edge of the word, the meaning is “wild,” “savage,” “fierce,” “outrageous,” “extreme.” At the opposite edge, it means merely “unsocial,” “surly,” “lacking social graces,” “socially awkward,” or even just “shy.”

The clue to its breadth of senses may come from its etymology, from the late Latin forasticus, “belonging outside,” from foras, “out of doors.” Farouche is a word for someone we have determined to be an outsider.

Example: From Frances Fitzgerald, “Annals of war,” in The New Yorker, 1972, describing Ngo Dinh Can, brother of Ngo Dinh Nhu: “A farouche figure, and a bachelor like Diem, Can had lived all his life with his mother in the family home. … Can had no Western education, and, indeed, very little education at all.”

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