September 23, 2013

Case File #013.09.23: VULGAR

The Latin noun vulgus meant “common people” or “general public,” and from it the ancient Romans derived the adjective vulgaris, which meant “commonplace” or “of the common people.” As you may have guessed, vulgaris was the source for the English vulgar, and when the latter first appeared in the English lexicon in the late fourteenth century, it essentially meant “common, ordinary, or everyday.” Around the middle of the seventeenth century, vulgar also took on the additional senses of “ill-bred” and “uncultivated, crude, or tasteless,” but the adjective's now more common sense of “lewd, indecent, or obscene” didn't come into use until the late eighteenth century.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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