Churlish.

Yesterday I experienced some churlish behaviour in two different contexts of my daily life.

As a high-school teacher, that is to be expected. Thankfully, it occurs in only a very small minority of the young people I work with on a daily basis, most of whom are excellent individuals.

In other areas of life, though, it can still take me by surprise because I tend to keep those with churlish tendencies  safely outside my personal boundaries,  from whence I can usually dismiss unpleasant behaviour with relative ease. In fact, I have come to expect little else from some quarters.

Churlish may be a somewhat old-fashioned word, but it is a very satisfying one because it is at the same time descriptive and highly expressive, able to deliver an eloquently judgemental tone that slightly soothes one’s wounded sensitivities as it is spoken.

Churlish dates back to the late Old English word cierlisc  which related to churls:  the lowest rank of free men in Anglo-Saxon England, and later the agricultural serfs of medieval England. They were the rustic peasants, looked down upon by those who were better off and better educated because they had neither manners nor money.

The Old English word ceorl has cognates, or close relatives, in the Middle Low German word kerle and the later German word kerl  which meant man or husband, the old Dutch word kerel  which referred to a low-ranked freeman, and the Old Norse word karl which meant old man, or just man in general. This suggests a common origin, and confirms that it is a very old word indeed.

By the late 14th century, churlish had come to mean deliberately rude or bad-tempered , a meaning which has persisted to the present day. There are other words one can use instead: these days, many of them are still considered inappropriate for polite conversation or formal writing, but one might justly call a churlish person rude, unmannered, arrogant, or temperamental. Churlish behaviour might be described as a tantrum, a fit of pique, or a hissy-fit.

The behaviour I witnessed yesterday fits all those descriptions. It made a highly traumatic day even harder to deal with, and left me feeling miserable and considerably more hurt than I had been earlier. I can only suppose that was their intention, and if they were ever to read this — which is unlikely, given how they both appear to feel about me — that may give them some satisfaction. I will probably never know, and that’s quite okay.

In the end, I don’t care for their attitude or their behaviour. If they want to be churlish, they can do it without me.

I’ll be interested when they want to communicate like a grownup.

Note: This is not a passive-aggressive post. As previously observed, those responsible are unlikely to read it.

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