Wednesday, March 18, 2009


impudent [IM-pyə-dənt]
adj. shameless; brash; uninhibited; characterized by offensive boldness

[From Latin im- ("not") + pudēre ("to feel shame")]

The etymology of impudent is what makes it a fun word. The Latin verb pudēre ("to feel shame") is its root; that comes from pudendum ("the external genital organs, esp. those of the female; vulva"). In other words, the source of a person's shame is having one's genitalia exposed.

As it is normally used, impudent is synonymous with impertinent ("intrusive or presumptuous, as persons or their actions; insolently rude; uncivil; brash") and audacious ("recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like"); its noun form, impudence, is synonymous with effrontery ("shameless or impudent boldness; barefaced audacity").

In her brilliant novel, Emma, Jane Austen described the benefit of impudence:
FRANK CHURCHILL came back again; and if he kept his father's dinner waiting, it was not known at Hartfield; for Mrs. Weston was too anxious for his being a favorite with Mr. Woodhouse to betray any imperfection which could be concealed.

He came back, had had his hair cut, and laughed at himself with a very good grace, but without seeming really at all ashamed of what he had done. He had no reason to wish his hair longer to conceal any confusion of face; no reason to wish the money unspent to improve his spirits. He was quite as undaunted and as lively as ever; and after seeing him, Emma thus moralized to herself:

"I do not know whether it ought to be so, but certainly silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way. Wickedness is always wickedness, but folly is not always folly. It depends upon the character of those who handle it."

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