Last week, an elderly neighbor lady passed away. I didn’t attend the funeral – but I heard about it! It was a normal funeral where the woman was eulogized and family members reminisced about the good times with their mother. Toward the end, another neighbor spoke for a few minutes and then read a letter that the mother had earlier written to her children. People were expecting the letter to be a loving mother’s last words. Instead she had the effrontery to castigate them.
Effrontery (i-fruhn-tuh-ree) is a noun that means shameless boldness, presumptuousness, audacity, impertinence. Department stores sometimes hand out free samples of lotions or perfumes or lipsticks. Most people will graciously accept one. Some people will have the effrontery to ask for two samples. They are shamelessly bold, gutsy, and rude to ask for more than one. Sometimes people have the effrontery to call someone a liar to their face. Sometimes people are brash and saucy to tell someone they look ugly in that outfit or that the outfit makes them look fat. That is effrontery.
This woman had the effrontery (shameless boldness, the guts, the audacity) to castigate (or chastised) her children. In public. At the funeral. In front of everybody that came. (And the chapel was full!). Apparently, some of the adult children had had a disagreement several years ago and were currently not speaking to each other. So the mother wrote the letter and told the neighbor that if her children had not apologized and were still not speaking to each other at the time of her funeral to please read the letter. They weren’t so the neighbor did.
Castigate is the next word for today. Castigate (kas-ti-geyt) is a verb that means to criticize or reprimand severely, to chastise, to correct by punishing, to scold, to reprove. Sometimes the press will castigate the president of the United States for how he is handling the war in Iraq. They criticize severely. They scold and reprove him. Sometimes bosses may castigate a poor worker with the hopes that the criticism and scolding will motivate him to improve his work.
Maybe castigate is too harsh of a word to use about the letter read at the funeral. The mother DID urge her children to repent of their ways, to forgive one another, and to get along. She explained how family is the most important thing here on earth – far more important than fame or fortune — or the family farm.
So the mother was scolding and reprimanding her children. But it sounded like it wasn’t severe or harsh. It was more gentle and loving. To the listeners, it didn’t seem harsh. But maybe the children felt otherwise. Maybe they felt justified for their original umbrage . . . .
Umbrage (uhm-brij) is a noun that means offense or annoyance arising from some insult, displeasure, grudge, or resentment. Apparently one family member did something (concerning the family farm) with which another member disagreed. Now they both hold a grudge and resentment toward each other. And the grudge (umbrage) is now dividing the family making it so they cannot get along. It sounds like they can’t even be in the same room with each other. From a mother’s point of view, I know how this must have saddened her heart.
Teenaged girls sometimes take umbrage when they feel they have been socially snubbed by someone they considered a friend. A person can take umbrage when someone says something rude or hurtful. A wife can take umbrage when a husband doesn’t do what she thinks that he should do – like clean up the messes he makes. Umbrage – taking offense, holding a grudge or resentment, having resentment or displeasure.
If we were to love one another more, nobody would take umbrage. Nobody would have to have the effrontery to castigate others. And there would be a whole lot more peace on earth. Love. That’s what it’s all about.