When I was young we used to call them “rejects” (said as “re-jects”). Maybe you did too. Maybe people still do.

I mean the kind of people (more often guys, now that I think of it) who rejected and were rejected. They were the unpleasant ones who hated everything and found something to condemn in everything, and everyone hated them. You’d see them walking around school or the university campus looking like they were wearing underwear made of greasy turkey skin, and even the cafeteria cashiers would only speak to them under duress. If you had the dreadful fortune of being trapped with one in some occasion – perhaps a classroom – they would lecture you about the depravity of all the things you liked best, or they would go on about all their autoexcoriatingly sketchy designs on members of the opposite sex, or both. The rejects thought themselves better than everyone and everything, and everyone else thought themselves better than the rejects. It was mutual rejection.

We generally thought these people would go away or grow up or, ideally, both.

But imagine having them running your country. Or even your city or your province or state.

There’s a word for that. Because of course there is. The Meccano set of classical roots is an almost infinite resource. 

The word is aporrhiptocracy.

Wow, that’s an unpleasant-looking word, innit? Especially that rrh in the middle, which looks less like the purr of a cat or even of a motorcycle engine and more like a belch or… wait… what common word contains it? Oh… yes… diarrhea.

It happens that diarrhea is not related to aporrhiptocracy, except in that they both come from Classical Greek, and in Classical Greek if you put a prefix ending in a vowel onto a root that starts with a devoiced “r” you get a doubling of that devoiced “r” that is transliterated into the Latin alphabet as rrh. And in the case of today’s word, the prefix is apo, απο (‘from’ or ‘away’ or ‘remove’), and the root is rhiptō, ῥίπτω (‘I throw’). And then there’s –(o)cracy (from -κρατία), having to do with rule (democracy, autocracy, etc.). So it’s throw-away-rule – or, more to the point, reject-rule.

Now, it’s true that being rejected doesn’t automatically mean you are a bad person. Anyone who knows Händel’s Messiah knows the aria that goes “He was despised, rejected of men,” which reminds us that a great person may be scorned by the middling multitude. And I’m sure that many of you reading this had experiences in youth like mine: of being generally unpopular because of being different and awkward. It is known that some people we look up to now were looked down on by their peers in their time.

But that’s also part of the problem. Because being rejected can be taken as a sign of virtue, of being scorned because you’re better. I think a lot of kids who are rejected by their agemates decide that must be the case. I did. It helped for a long time to keep me from noticing that I was often obnoxious, rude, condescending… Sure, they were defensive responses, but eventually we’re all supposed to grow up, right?

Except for those who don’t. And aporrhiptocracy isn’t about being ruled by people who were scorned as children due to their virtue. It’s about being ruled by people who even as adults take every negative response as proof of their rightness and superiority. People, for instance, who insist priggishly that every “modern” “innovation” (meaning they became aware of it after their seventh birthday) is “degenerate,” that one race or gender or language or mode of clothing or style of architecture is intrinsically superior, that if you can trip someone you must be better than them and you can prove it by kicking them while they’re down… People who rule by rejecting. As they themselves were rejected.

Obviously, the fewer reasons we have to use the word aporrhiptocracy, the better. But, people being people, it will never cease altogether to be of use.

…Though I will confess that, as you may have suspected, it’s a new old word. I put it together myself from the Greek roots. And, yes, if you know Classical Greek, you may have noticed that I cheated: I used the present indicative of the verb, rather than the past participle. This is because I didn’t like apoerriphocracy as well. But, hey, most people will never notice. 

In fact, I could have made it rejectocracy, mixing Latin and Greek. But that would be obvious, and where’s the fun in that? But if you prefer to use rejectocracy, I can’t blame you, and I won’t object.

One response to “aporrhiptocracy

  1. This word, and post, are breathtaking. You deserve a MasterCard “Priceless!” for this one.

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