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Rogue is now a term for a joker or jester pretends to accomplish on jocular way, the seemingly impossible and it takes advantage.

Concept history

Original meaning

Mertte from Erfurt and Hans Miller from Pressburg, two rascals. Notes by a master furrier from Esslingen (16th century)

Old High German scelmo, scalmo meant plague, plague, also carrion and based on it, as a swear word, scoundrel or deceiver.

The word rogue was a knightly nickname in the high Middle Ages of the 12th and 13th centuries and meant deathbringer . This epithet probably indicated the knight's fighting abilities . In the late Middle Ages , the original meaning of the word rogue was associated with the activity of the executioner and thus also used to designate this professional group. Rogues belonged to a social fringe group: They were members of an indispensable but despised profession. As such, rogues lived in an ambiguous relationship with a “better society” that was dependent on them but at the same time ostracized them. The term rogue towards others was therefore viewed as a serious insult and was still punishable as a verbal injurie in the 17th century . A rogue is also a fool in the final sense of the word. With this meaning, the word appears today only in the translation of the motto of the British Order of the Garter , which is:

Honi soit qui mal y pense (German: "A rogue, who thinks evil.")

Although originally an executioner, according to the legend, after the " rogue of Bergen " near Frankfurt was raised to the nobility and wore this name with pride. Heinrich Heine and Karl Simrock recorded this legend in different poems. The legend, however, is an invention of Romanticism and does not reflect the actual story of the knight family of the Rogues of Bergen.

The picaresque novel

From around 1550 the picaresque genre came up. The term "picaresque novel" only spread in the 18th century, when the word rogue lost its negative connotation .

The novel describes - mostly episodically - from the perspective of its hero, how he struggles through life in a series of adventures. The rogue comes from a lower class; he is therefore uneducated, but “farmer smart”. It passes through social classes and becomes their mirror. The hero has no influence on the events around him, but always manages to save himself from dangerous situations. Don Quixote can be read as a picaresque novel. Works from 1800 are partly still known today and have contributed to preserving the term "rogue" and the term content to this day.

Change in meaning since the 19th century

Departing from the original meaning which the word rogue today only in the sense of mischief or teaser used. However, this change did not take place until the 19th century. An echo of the earlier meaning can still be found in the adjectival use of the word. When a person smiles mischievously , it is a meaningful flirtatious smile that can hide something conspiratorial or seductive.

The German comedian and actor Heinz Erhardt (1909–1979) often used the expression in a typical phrase on his stage appearances, after pronouncing something wrong or distorting the meaning: "What a rascal am I today!"

See also


  • Paul Alverdes: List against List. From rogues and fools from all over the world. Ehrenwirth, Munich 1963.
  • Dieter Arendt: The rogue as a contradiction and self-criticism of the bourgeoisie. Preparatory work for a literary-sociological analysis of picaresque literature. 1st edition. Klett Verlag, Stuttgart 1978 (literary studies - social science; materials and studies on the sociology of literature). ISBN 978-3-12-391700-4 .
  • Matthias Bauer: The picaresque novel. Metzler, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 978-3-476-10282-9 .
  • Helmut Heidenreich (ed.): Picarian world. Writings on the European picaresque novel. Bibliography, Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1969.
  • Michael Nerlich: art, politics and rogue. The return of the artist and the intellectual to 20th century society. depicted in works v. Charles de Coster, Romain Rolland, André Gide, Heinrich Mann . Athenäum Verlag, Frankfurt am Main and Bonn 1969.

Web links

Wiktionary: Schelm  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

supporting documents

  1. ^ Etymological dictionary of German. Developed under the direction of Wolfgang Pfeifer . Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1997 (and other editions), s. v. Rogue ( online ).
  2. Rogue. Retrieved January 9, 2012 .
  3. A loose rogue. Archived from the original on January 2, 2010 ; Retrieved January 9, 2012 .