Simanaitis Says

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THIS RESEARCH STARTED with an erudite, if perhaps overwrought, description of Britain’s Boris Johnson in the London Review of Books, August 15, 2019: Ferdinand Mount, one of the article’s co-authors, said, “The transgressive sayer of the unsayable breaks through the carapace of conventional politics with a mixture of humour and vituperation, slang and high-flown rhodomontade.”

I’m with Mount to a point—but what about “rhodomontade”?

My sources included Merriam-Webster, The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, and James Orchard Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic Words. Nor did matters stop at “rhodomontade.” What’s more, I believe there’s relevance with at least one other current world leader who comes to mind. Maybe more.

Rhodomontade aka Rodomontade. Merriam-Webster defines rhodomontade as “1: a bragging speech, 2: vain boasting or bluster.” The word’s alternate spelling “originated in Italian literature. Rodomonte was a fierce and boastful king in Orlando Innamorato, Count Matteo M. Boiardo’s late 15th century epic, and later in the sequel Orlando Furioso, written by poet Lodovico Ariosto in 1516.”

Rodomonte defending the bridge; illustration by Gustave Doré in Orlando Furioso.

Archaic Words has Rodomont listed as a boaster and cites “a famous hero in Ariosto so called.”

The OED agrees that rodomontade is “a vainglorious brag or boast; an extravagantly boastful or arrogant saying or speech; an arrogant act.” In Philip, 1862, Thackeray wrote, “Poor Phil used to bore me after dinner with endless rodomontades about his passion and his charmer.”

Among rodomontade’s synonyms, Merriam-Webster lists braggadocio, fanfaronade, and gasconade.

Braggadocio. Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene, 1590, has a guy named Braggadocio. According to Wikipedia, the poem is one of the longest in the English language, so much so that the empty-boasting Braggadocio doesn’t even make the list of its 28 major characters.

Archaic Words has “Braggadocia,” suggesting that acting with bombast is not purely a masculine trait.

As for “brag,” the OED notes that its etymology is uncertain. Sixteenth-century French has braguer with the meaning of arrogant or boastful language. However, the Middle English “Vr bost vr brag is sone ouerbide,” c. 1360, precedes this French by 200 years. It’s possible brag has Celtic or Norse roots.

Fanfarade. Merriam-Webster defines fanfarade as the same as fanfare.

Fanfares have described the sounds of trumpets, bugles, or hunting horns at least as early as Montgomerie’s Welcome Ld. Semple, 1605: “My trompet, sall sound, The famphar of thy fame.”

OED offers the related fanfaronade as “boisterous or arrogant language, boastful assertion, ostentation.” Its 1652 citation: “the Gasconads of France, Rodomonds of Spain, and Farfonads of Italy.”

Gasconade. Merriam-Webster defines gasconade as “bravado, boasting.” It continues, “The citizens of Gascony in southwestern France have proverbially been regarded as prone to bragging.”

How long before Mar-a-Lagoade? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. Michael Rubin
    December 8, 2019

    I Usta be an editor as well and I send congratulations on yet one more entertaining and informative language lesson. Kudos and props.

    • simanaitissays
      December 8, 2019

      Thanks for your kind words, Michael. It’s a particularly good time to be an amateur etymologist.

  2. Bob DuBois
    December 10, 2019

    There is a Gasconade River in Missouri. It originates in the Ozarks, and wends its way northward, finally merging into the Missouri River about halfway between Jefferson City and St. Louis. It is certainly nothing to brag about, so wonder how it acquired its name.

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