Word of the Month: Contumacious

David Zapatka

Sister and reader Judy Haberstroh wrote after reading the June column, “This one is interesting. Initially I was leaning toward using ‘yet’ but once I saw the specific definition of ‘still,’ I felt that was the correct word. However, when talking, I would more likely place the word ‘still’ after ‘it’s’ rather than at the end of the sentence. Hmmmmm…”

Friend and reader Jan Bobbett wrote, “Like your reader Sally Teusch, I enjoy your column. As I read the current one, I thought of my good friend Margaret Simkins. Wouldn’t you know it—she called today, and I told her about your column and why I thought of her. Oh, that reason is she went to Catholic schools, as did my brothers, and like many who did, she is very careful about linguistic precision. She used to call me and ask about English questions and to complain about people saying, “It’s me.” I usually told her (though in many fewer words and with a smile) that because I was a teacher/prof, I tried to speak as most educated people do currently rather than to strive for an English that is technically correct—so that I don’t sound pedantic. In other words, I don’t consider ‘it’s me’ to be a problem. Anyway, that’s the history, be it right or wrong.

When I told her about the article, she spoke of you and said she wanted to see it, so I will send it to her. I bet I’m not the only one to say this: my preferences would include a bit of a change.

It’s a few miles yet. Not sure why it sounds better without ‘more.’ Even better it’s still a few more miles. ‘Still’ and ‘more’ support each other. Keep it up, David.”

Reader Ray Rosenbach writes, “My all-time favorite word is ‘contumacious.’”

Contumacious: adjective kän-tü-ˈmā-shəs 1. stubbornly disobedient. 2. rebellious. 3. stubbornly or willfully disobedient to authority.

Origin and Etymology: Middle English contumacie, from Anglo-French, from Latin contumacia, from contumac-, contumax rebellious.

First Used: 1583.

Used in a Sentence: The judge threatened to charge the contumacious witness with contempt of court. The contumacious football player was kicked off the team for not following the coach’s orders.

Used in the News: “Some immigration officials have accused Iranians whose asylum applications were rejected of instigating riots this year at the Christmas island and Villawood detention centers. During a recent parliamentary inquiry, Andrew Metcalfe, the Immigration and Citizenship Department secretary, accused Iranian detainees of “contumacious” behavior, willful disobedience.”—The New York Times, Nov. 11, 2011.

“A New York lawyer accused of ‘contumacious courtroom behavior’ was disbarred Thursday after he repeatedly failed to answer requests from ethics investigators for financial record.”—LexisNexis Legal NewsRoom.

Please submit your experiences, any thought on this month’s column or any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments to [email protected].