In a word: truckle

Samuel Pepys

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

TRUCKLE

There are multiple ways to bend to superior power or influence, and truckle (pronounced TRUK-uhl) encompasses much of the spectrum. It can mean simply to take a subordinate position. It can mean to give way timidly. Worse, it can mean to submit from an unworthy motive. Worst, it can mean to cringe, to be servile, to be obsequious. The latter meanings have given it a tinge that you would probably resist applying to yourself.

The history of the word is quirky. It comes from truckle-bed, a small bed on castors that can be rolled out from under a high bed. (Trundle bed is the more common American term.) Thus the servant or subordinate sleeps in the lesser bed while the more important person takes the larger one. The etymology of truckle is from the Anglo-Norman trocle, that from the Latin trochlea, or sheave of a pulley.

Example: From Samuel Pepys's Diary: "He will never ... truckle under anybody or any faction, but do just as his own reason and judgment directs."

 

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