Thinking over my attributes, I feel it’s time to properly define the words recalcitrant, stubborn and obstinate, adjectives often used to describe moi. My sister, who soon will show her mastery of vocabulary on the SAT, is helping me with this task. Often confused with each other, these words really have important differences, which I shall illuminate with examples from personal experience. To wit:
Recalcitrant: a higher form of obstinacy: having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline.
Example: Remember the time I gave my trainer a fat lip? I was being recalcitrant then. Sorry, Elaine! (not) Origin: from the Latin, kicking out with the heels (or head, in this case).
Obstinate: stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or course of action despite attempts to persuade one to do so. Origin: Middle English, to persist.
Example: I am obstinate when I perform the Plop O’Doom. I know perfectly well where my people want me to go, and they object to my objection. Overruled!
Stubborn: showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, esp. in spite of good reasons to do so. Difficult to move or remove.
Example: Refusing to go out in the rain even though the need is rather desperate. Standing in the open doorway as if I am considering such an insane move is only to please my folks. They love fresh air!
The dictionary notes, in explaining the differences between stubborn and obstinate, that “dogged can be either positive or negative, implying both tenacious, often sullen persistence and great determination.” I feel triumphant!
I forgot about these two synonyms: intractable and obdurate. Obdurate: a stubborn resistance marked by harshness and lack of feeling (moi? Au contraire!); intractable: stubborn in a headstrong sense, difficult for others to manage (oui!).
The dictionary cautions that “you probably don’t want to be called pertinacious, which implies persistence to the point of being annoying or unreasonable.” Well, I probably was called pertinacious today by my very well educated dog walker, poor thing. I might have tested her patience just a tad too much. Things did not go well. More later.