Thursday, 15 October 2020

quacksalver and cumberworld

Though now more generalised to indicate an obsequious underling or someone who lavishes flattery unwarranted, we learn that etymologically the noun and adjective toady is a shortening of the job of the toad-eater—that is, the assistant (or supposed volunteer from the gathered crowd) to a quack doctor, a mountebank from the Italian montambanco for mounted-on-a-bench and positioned to hawk his tonics and curatives engaged to performatively eat a toad, which many considered to be poisonous at the time. Hamming it up and on the verge of death, the doctor would administer his potion thus restoring the patient. There’s a whole bevy of useful vocabulary terms for the insufferable below from Merriam-Webster (see previously)—though we agree that to call someone the above cumberworld is a bit too harsh to revive for general use and should really reserve it for the worst of us.