Monday, July 06, 2009

Between Contumacity and Obsequiousness

Every once in a while, I like to briefly flip through a dictionary in an attempt to enlarge my vocabulary by discovering new and useful words.

The other day, I happened to spot the little-used word "contumacious". defines the word (in its adjective form) as "stubbornly perverse or rebellious; willfully and obstinately disobedient". (Or "insubordinate," in the lingo of American employers.) At the opposite extreme, a person might be described as "obsequious".

I'm inclined to think that a person's attitude toward authority ought to be somewhere in-between those two extremes. Unfortunately, some people incorrectly think that contumacity and obsequiousness are one's only two options when dealing with authority figures. Therefore, one who is not in the habit of kissing the behinds of people who are demonstrably fallible is likely to be accused, occasionally, of contumacity. That's a shame. Such accusations often say more about the accusers than they say about the accused.

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