outrage

“Out!” he raged, pointing the way. Ah, yes, the tone of this word is clearly set by its apparent constituents: out – beyond, as in beyond the pale, simply too much, but also the act of emotion in outcry and outpouring – and rage. It’s a word simply meant to be shouted! Especially with that out echoing shout and ow and now and then the growling r right after, going through the vowel to the teeth-clenching voiced alveolar affricate at the end. But why doesn’t it simply mean “rage out” or “rage more than”? Well, because the rage is really a mirage – in fact, it’s the same rage as in mirage: the nominalizing suffix -age with an r from the stem before it. Yes, the stem is outr! Outrageous, isn’t it! There’s no out in here either! But there is a similarity in sense between out and the source of outr, French ultre or outre: think ultra, as in utraviolet… “beyond.” One could say that an outrage is an instance of something outré, though the sense of outrage has always been a bit stronger than mere bad manners or bad taste. From the very first, it has signified violent or disorderly behaviour, a violent wrong done, or a gross affront – in short, a transgression (which is a going beyond). So naturally an outrage is something that would provoke an enraged outcry, and this has played quite nicely with the form of the word so that the second syllable is no longer said as in shortage (a word that has not come to be an antonym for longevity!) but instead gets an unetymological emphasis and “long” vowel (see my post on “long” and “short” vowels in English). And so, along with the preceding phrase “this is an” and a following exclamation mark, this word also hangs out in the same neighbourhood as howls, indignation, provoke, moral, widespread, shock, and of course public (for who else is raging out?).

One response to “outrage

  1. Pingback: tirade | Sesquiotica

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