Friday, 3 January 2014

Canaille - A Pack of the Proles

The canaille are frequently to be found on ... shudders ... "public transport"
(photo by Radcliffe Dacanay)


Noun. Late 16th century.
[French from Italian canaglia literally 'pack of dogs', from cane dog.]

The rabble, the populace.

Humans just can't make up their minds about dogs. On the one hand, a dog is supposedly man's best friend; on the other, its kind is reserved for use in the most hateful epithets and comparisons. Commoners, however - the proles, the rabble, the hoi polloi, the canaille - now there's no ambivalence there. Don't let the fancy French pronunciation fool you - the canaille are lazy, stupid, unworthy, ignoble, dirty, untrustworthy and fickle. And they smell - every last one of them smells. Fortunately, English has inherited suitable words like canaille, words that both compare the rabble to the filthy dogs that they are, but still sound pretentiously cultured enough that we don't have to sully ourselves with dirty words like chavs or ... (and I apologise for such language) ... working class.

A pack of African wild dogs
(photo by Bart Swanson)

Is it morally wrong to dirty a dog's character by likening it to commoners?

Do you have any suggestions on how we can keep the canaille away from Lexicolatry?

Do please pack your most feral comments into the box below.


  1. What else would you call people who have to work like dogs?

    1. Canaille think about that?

      Oh come on! That was a pretty good joke!

      No? No. You're probably right.