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Roue finds no fortune when the wheel spins

Question: I've seen the word "roue" applied to a licentious man. This word must be of French origin. Can you offer any further information?

Answer: The word "roue" (spelled with an acute accent over the "e" and pronounced "roo-ay") can be traced back to the Latin noun "rota," meaning "wheel." From this noun came the verb "rotare," "to rotate," which in medieval Latin took on the sense "to break on the wheel." The wheel in question was the instrument of torture designed to extract a confession of guilt by stretching, disjointing or otherwise mutilating the victim. "Rotare" became "rouer" in French, and "roue" is the past participle of that verb, meaning "broken on the wheel." About the year 1720, Phillipe II, Duke of Orleans and Regent of France, who was himself a profligate, called his friends "roues," by which he jokingly meant that they deserved to be broken on the wheel for their licentiousness. This form of punishment was generally meted out at that time for serious wrongdoing. It has also been suggested that the duke may have called his friends "roues" because their debauches so exhausted them that they felt as though they had been broken on the wheel. In any case, "roue" then came to be applied to other such rakes and profligates. Its first appearance in English was around the year 1800.

Question: In the newspaper, I read about the "chieftain of the Cossack horde" - a modern-day person. I had never heard "horde" used in this way. I am familiar with historical references to the Mongol "Golden Horde" which penetrated medieval Russia, and with the use of "horde" to mean "multitude." Can you tell me something about this other "horde"?

Answer: A detailed dictionary will tell you that "horde" can mean "a political subdivision of central Asian nomads."

The word "horde" was not actually recorded in English until 1555, long after Genghis Khan first swept with his Mongol "hordes" across the East.

"Horde" has also long been equated with "army," since the original Mongol "political subdivisions," while essentially tribal, were military bodies.

If "horde" sounds out of place in that modern use it's because of its strong historical association with Mongol invaders, which has meant that in military contexts "horde" has almost always been used of an enemy.