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 The Diary of a Word Nerd

  • Writer's pictureGrace Kidder

A Ribald Sense of Humor

Last night before bed, I was working my way through my book of puzzles (I know, I'm a nerd). I was speeding through one particular puzzle; I had every answer filled in except for one. The only clue I had was "raunchy," and I knew it was six letters and started with an 'r.' Eventually I had to cheat and look up the answer because I couldn't figure it out, and it was "ribald." I had never heard the word before, so no wonder I didn't know it!

From a quick Internet search, I discovered that "ribald" is usually used to describe some kind of creative piece, like a movie, book, or play, although it can certainly be used to refer to a person as well. For example, "The ribald comedian had everyone laughing at his racy jokes and innuendos." I don't know about you, but I can definitely think of some comedians who fit this description.

According to Merriam-Webster, "ribald" can also be used as a noun to refer to "a person coarse or lewd in appearance, speech, writing, or thought," although this usage is considered archaic. The entry goes on to say that the word "applies to what is amusingly or picturesquely vulgar or irreverent or mildly indecent." I'm not sure why, but "picturesquely vulgar" made me laugh. It sounds so contradictory to me!

What about you? Have you ever heard this word before? Let me know!

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