It began the other day when, at 79, the word "bounder" popped into my mind. "Bounder" is a word I have admired and one, in more genteel times, I might have applied to the current president of the United States, Donald Trump.
A bounder was a loud-mouth whose bourgeois shenanigans had brought him or her to a wealth that a fraying European aristocracy might envy and attach its hopes of shoring up a dwindling capacity. "Bounders" were a crass but well-heeled constituency who might pay the grounds keepers and maintain the lacy style in which the lords and ladies had learned to live. Bounders were not terribly couth, but they had the wherewithal to prop up the six or seven silver forks on the dining room table. Bounders were not terribly well washed. But marry a bounder and the peacocks might continue to roam the grounds.
And yet the word "bounder" came with a slight smile on the face in more genteel times... the well-intentioned klutz, perhaps. Donald Trump does not occasion such a smile. He flaunts his unwashed ears and makes the lords and ladies go "eek! -- how much did you say?" Consider the lack of smile within just some of Merriam Webster's synonyms for "bounder:"
Lordy.bastard, beast, bleeder [British], blighter [chiefly British], boor, bugger, buzzard, cad, chuff, churl, clown, creep, cretin, crud [slang], crumb [slang], cur, dog, fink, heel, hound, jerk, joker, louse, lout, pill, rat, rat fink, reptile, rotter, schmuck [slang], scum, scumbag [slang], scuzzball, skunk, sleaze, sleazebag [slang], slime, slob, snake, so-and-so, sod [chiefly British], stinkard, stinker, swine, toad, varmint, vermin
The upper crust cannot in many instances do without the input of bounders and yet they will go kicking a screaming in their reference books. Appearances must be maintained. Bring on the "bounders."
And still I like the word "bounder" as the end nears and the beginnings assert themselves. Chalk it up to my wussy mode. Donald Trump may not qualify as a bounder (though there was that moment during his September 2018 U.N. speech when someone saw fit to laugh at his braggadocio) with a smile, but in another time and place, an exceptionalist laird or lady might smile indulgently while accepting the cash provided by a "bounder." And there was the trenchant observation passed along in email a while back:
It was from the word "bounder" that I found myself slip-sliding into the fact that I know how to read and write and to wonder why I so seldom take that as anything other than a 'given.' What might my life be like without reading and writing? Who died and left me king?
What might it be like to be unable to read and write ... seriously. I ask this in a writing many around the world cannot ingest or digest or make hay with. Imagine that. Pretty arrogant from one point of view. No reading or writing and I become what so many have become -- chattel. You can kind of see why despots fear education ... a la Donald Trump, for example.
The embers of beginning/past inform the flames of a present. I learned how to read and write and now take it as a 'given.' I smile at the word "bounder" because I learned to read and write, but would I smile if I did not know how to read and write?
The embers glow. The flames leap. Slavery is not a pleasant notion, with or without the accoutrements of the manor.
I guess I just like the word "bounder" because it has a frisky lilt even as its fallout is far from being some frisky put-down.
Did I have a point when I started to write this? I think I did, but I can't remember what it was.
Imagine that there were no reading or writing in the daily mix.