Dastardly: (adj) cowardly; meanly base; sneaking
I don’t mind losing words from the English language. I’m not sentimental.
If for some reason one can’t survive the evolution from generation to generation, it doesn’t bother me.
Yet I am fully aware that the loss of certain terms does leave us vacuous and ill-prepared to deal with what the idea foretold.
The word “dastardly” was popular well before my time.
It started somewhere in the Renaissance and ended post-American Civil War.
But if you listen to the definition, you are granted a tremendous insight on what vices travel together as a gang—and how, in doing so, they generate peculiar and unique forms of evil.
It struck me that “sinister” begins with cowardice.
“I’m afraid to deal with it.”
“I’m afraid of the outcome.”
“I’m afraid it won’t work.”
“I’m afraid I’ll get blamed.”
Once this cowardice sets in, a mean-spiritedness raises its ugly head in a defensive profile.
“Why is it my problem?”
“Why didn’t they take care of it before I came along?”
“Why is everybody blaming me?”
“Why doesn’t he get off his ass and do something?”
Then, once cowardly links up with mean, you arrive at sneaky.
“How can I make myself look good while simultaneously making you look bad, so there’s no doubt whose fault it is?”
So even though we’ve walked away from the word “dastardly,” and nowadays have even substituted “tough” in its stead, maybe we should take a moment to realize that when someone is cowardly, sprouting a mean spirit, they eventually will find a sneaky angle to get their way—and probably make you and me look ridiculous in the process.