Rabble, rouse yourself from this pastoral torpor!

Larry Horn, posting to ADS-L yesterday:

Haven’t encountered “to rabble-rouse” before, although I’m sure it’s widely attested.  Here’s an interesting one in the wild, though, from George Wallace’s daughter, arguing that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice  Roy Moore, who — after gaining fame some time ago by commissioning a monument of the Ten Commandments and posting it in the state judicial building, is now engaged in a crusade force Alabama probate judges to ignore the federal mandate on marriage equality (or, as he probably terms it, sin):

… George Wallace was able, by virtue of his office, to take political advantage by publicly promoting a theology of discrimination, but Roy Moore cannot. George Wallace was not confined by a code of ethics that restricted his right to rabble rouse, but Roy Moore is. (link)

Plenty of occurrences of to rabble-rouse and a few of rabble-rouses and rabble-roused, and rabble-rouse seems to be in WNI3. Not in my list of 2pbfVs (two-part back-formed verbs), but now it will be in entry #140.

The title plays on a quotation from the 1963 movie of Tom Jones. Edith Evans, as an imperious Miss Western, to Hugh Griffith, as a Squire Western sprawled in drunkenness:

Rouse yourself from this pastoral torpor, sir!

The 2pbfV rabble-rouse is based on the synthetic compounds rabble-rouser and rabble-rousing; the first is in NOAD2 (defined as ‘a person who speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people, typically for political reasons’, that is, a person who speaks with the intention of rousing the rabble), which also has the second, as a derivative of the first.

That brings us to rouse (also arouse) and rabble.

The verb rouse (mostly used with an object) in NOAD2:

1 bring out of sleep; awaken: she was roused from a deep sleep by a hand on her shoulder.
[1a] [no obj.] cease to sleep or to be inactive; wake up: she roused, took off her eyepads, and looked around.
[1b] startle out of inactivity; cause to become active: once the enemy camp was roused, they would move on the castle | she’d just stay a few more minutes, then rouse herself and go back.
[1c] startle (game) from a lair or cover.
[1d] Nautical, archaic   haul (something) vigorously in the specified direction: rouse the cable out.
2 cause to feel angry or excited: the crowds were roused to fever pitch by the drama of the race.
[2a] cause or give rise to (an emotion or feeling): his evasiveness roused my curiosity.
3 stir (a liquid, especially beer while brewing): rouse the beer as the hops are introduced.
ORIGIN late Middle English (originally as a hawking and hunting term): probably from Anglo-Norman French, of unknown ultimate origin.

The sense in rabble-rouser is sense 2.

Then the verb arouse (used with an object):

1 evoke or awaken (a feeling, emotion, or response): something about the man aroused the guard’s suspicions | the letter aroused in him a sense of urgency.
[1a] excite or provoke (someone) to anger or strong emotions [that is, rouse]: an ability to influence the audience and to arouse the masses.
[1b] excite (someone) sexually.
2 awaken (someone) from sleep: she had been aroused by the telephone.
ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from rouse, on the pattern of the pair of rise, arise [which are alternatives in the senses ‘get up from lying, sitting, or kneeling’,  ‘get out of bed’].

And finally the noun rabble:

a disorderly crowd; a mob: he was met by a rabble of noisy, angry youths.
[a] (the rabble) derogatory   ordinary people, especially when regarded as socially inferior or uncouth.
ORIGIN late Middle English (in the senses ‘string of meaningless words’ and ‘pack of animals’): perhaps related to dialect rabble ‘to gabble’

One Response to “Rabble, rouse yourself from this pastoral torpor!”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I am reminded of a line from The West Wing, C.J. to Danny: “You’re a rabble-rouser. You rouse rabbles.” The line is funny because one does not generally encounter the plural of rabble in the wild.

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