A coarse, gross, brassy word. It carries its sense on its loud lapels: you hear, on the one side, the whole host of angry, crusty, growling, gritting cr and especially cra words – crap, crash, crack, crab, all made for spitting and growling; on the other side, the blatt of ass, a rude end, like a dismissive wave of the hand and a hiss. A few millimetres of vowel height separate this word from a leafy green (botanically a crucifer, and indeed on the way to cross), but between [æ] and [E] what a difference there can be. This word does not keep the most pleasant of company – indifference is a common playmate – and even where found in the company of such unexceptionable words as tastes and manners it lowers the tone to the bottom of the trash can. Anglo-saxon though it may sound, however, it’s Latin in street clothes: crassus meant fat, dense, thick, that kind of sh*t.

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