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Excerpt from Chapter 1: Aggressive Words
"Comin'-at-ya!" That's, more or less, the literal meaning of "aggressive." Whether actual or just implied, the words below all involve some form of attack.
1. Scathe (rhymes with bathe)
This means "to harm or injure" and comes into English from Old Norse; those Vikings knew a thing or two about scathing. Today, you'll see it mostly in the two forms illustrated below.
- While Henrik would never hit a member of his family, his scathing comments are brutal enough.
- The powerful force of Hurricane Katrina left no resident of New Orleans unscathed.
2. Lacerate (LASS-er-ate)
This word refers to ripping or tearing, whether literal or figurative.
- The pit-bull attack left Jeff with deep lacerations on his shin.
- The English translation of Jonathan Swift's self-written Latin epitaph refers to death as the only place where his heart would not be lacerated by a fierce indignation.
3. Disparage (dis-PAIR-idge)
Though not as cruel as scathe or lacerate, this verb refers to a withering belittlement of someone or something. (The root word is related to the word peer, so if you're dis-peered, you're being made less of an equal than the speaker.)
- Because Angela is insecure about her abilities, she finds it important to disparage the ideas of others, even before they've been given a hearing.
- Martin's disparagement of Bethany's attempts to make him happy gradually led to their break-up.
4. Deride (de-RIDE)
Akin in meaning to disparage, this verb contains the additional tinge of meaning "scornful laughter."
- In Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream, Helena, ignorant of the magic potion put onto the eyes of Lysander and Demetrius, feels sure their declarations of love are attempts to deride her.
- "I'd rather have you make a straightforward attack on me than to treat my ideas with such derision in our staff meetings," asserted Randolph nervously to his supervisor.
5. Temerity (tem-ER-it-ee)
From the Latin word meaning rash, this noun means "extreme boldness." Someone with temerity exhibits a foolish disregard for danger. There is actually an adjective form of the word, temerarious, but using this uncommon form would be a little bit audacious.
- Oliver Twist had the temerity to ask for some more porridge when he knew the directors of the orphanage were determined to feed the boys as little as possible.
- It took a lot of temerity for the soldier to cross No Man's Land in the middle of a skirmish.
6. Diatribe (DYE-ah-tribe)
The root of the Greek word diatribe or "learned discourse" is diatribein, which means "to consume or wear away." In English, the noun means "a bitter, abusive lecture."
- Stalin's speech was a furious diatribe, harshly critical of his political opponents.
- Xiao Xiao's cutting humor and brutal sarcasm made each of her movie reviews a hilarious diatribe against contemporary culture.
7. Animus (AN-i-muss)
In its general meaning this noun expresses the idea of a hostile disposition, ill will toward someone. (In Jungian psychology the word describes masculine aspects of a female's unconscious.) The noun form is animosity.
- "Why do all of your remarks to me have such an animus? I haven't done anything to deserve this jeering," said the fed-up Malcolm.
- The comic book character Animus deserves his name, for he is indeed a hatemonger and expresses animosity toward others.