rodomontade

Bellicose professions lend themselves to boasting rants. Boxers, wrestlers, and other fighters are known for loudly heralding their prowess. “When my opponent steps into the ring, he’s sealing his own doom! I’m gonna demonstrate that I’m a demon in human form! I’ll ram him down and drum on his head! There will be no redeeming him!” And so on – a mordant montage. The same may be found in many more figuratively combative lines of work, such as stock trading and mergers and acquisitions. Tests are met with testosterone and attestations.

There are a few different words for this bellicose chest-beating, but the most sonorous is surely rodomontade. The very sound is like a flourish on a drum: roll in with ro and then three strokes, hard, softer, then sharp: do-mon-tade! It’s sure to awaken the dormant. It’s a word for someone who rode in mounted on his ego.

It tells such tales, too: its eleven characters can produce doom, demon, madder, dormant, ardent, mordant, moaned, tandem, odor, and several others, and but for the lack of a letter it could make matador and mastodon – a battle appropriately sized for this kind of braggadocio. You can see the eyes popping and the mouth gaping, o o o, and the bared teeth m n and drawn scimitar t…

Scimitar? Well, why not? There is a larger tale that this word tells. It is from a name, Rodomonte, the original bearer of which was a character in the epic poems Orlando innamorato by Boiardo and Orlando furioso by Ariosto, written in the late 1400s and early 1500s (respectively). Rodomonte was a Saracen king, a loud, boastful, arrogant man, given to supreme confidence in his skills and certain to assure his enemies that they would be slain and dismembered by him, the most illustrious of warriors.

Boiardo was, we are told, so happy with coming up with the name for this character that he asked for the church bells to be rung. The name Rodomonte is sonorous, certainly, but what else? In Boiardo’s dialect, it means ‘roll-mountain’ – one who rolls away the mountain. Of course, to anglophones generally it’s not semantically transparent. It might as well be Rhadames. Or perhaps some warrior from Rhodes. Which is why so often you will see this word spelled as rhodomontade. Also, perhaps, the rh makes the word seem extra hairy.

One more thing we should remember about this word: it refers to over-the-top boasting, but it does not automatically imply that the boasts are empty or that the boaster is a coward, a miles gloriosus to use the Roman term. The annoying fact is that in the poems Rodomonte actually is a highly skilled warrior who generally lives up to his press releases. He is only finally lain low near the end. Don’t you hate that – when someone declares loudly how good he is and actually turns out to be good?

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