Word of the Day: Doughty

Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day, thanks to WordGenius.com, is doughty, an adjective that means “Brave and persistent” or “Displaying courage,” according to the website. According to www.dictionary.com, it means “steadfastly courageous and resolute; valiant.” And www.etymonline.com says that it the word is found in the form of “Middle English doughti, from Old English dohtig ‘competent, good, valiant,’ from dyhtig ‘strong,’ related to dugan ‘to be fit, be able, be strong,’ and influenced by its past participle, dohte.”

In addition, according to the website, “All from Proto-Germanic *duhtiz- (source also of Middle High German thtec, German tüchtig ‘efficient, capable,’ Middle Dutch duchtich ‘large, sturdy, powerful,’ Danish dygtig ‘virtuous, proficient,’ Gothic daug ‘is fit’), from PIE *dheugh- ‘to be fit, be of use, proper; meet, hit the mark’ (source also of Sanskrit duh ‘gives milk;’ Greek teukhein ‘to manufacture, accomplish; make ready;’ Irish dual ‘becoming, fit;’ Russian duij ‘strong, robust;’ German Tugend ‘virtue’).”

Etymonline also says that the word has been considered archaic since the 18th century and is used only for its sense of age. In other words, you can find it in stories of medieval knights, but not in very many other places.

On this date in 1933, not-yet-president Franklin D. Roosevelt was nearly assassinated in Miami, Florida.

FDR gave a speech from the back of his car in Bayfront Park in Miami. This was before his inauguration, which was held on March 4, as it had done since Washington’s second inauguration (except when March 4 fell on a Sunday, when it moved to March 5; the date was moved to January in 1937, following the passage of the 20th Amendment). He was in Florida on a kind of working vacation, planning out his cabinet and taking a little breather before going to Washington for the inauguration.

He was scheduled to take a small cruise on the yacht of one of his rich friends, but he was driven to Bayfront Park to say a few words to some of his supporters. About a thousand people showed up, among them Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, and Joseph Gill, the president of Florida Power and Light. His speech lasted only a few minutes; he talked about his fishing vacation, and he promised to return to Miami. That’s when it happened.

The shooter was Giuseppe “Joe” Zangara, a 32-year-old immigrant from Italy. He had served in World War I and then immigrated in 1923, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1929. He had very little education, so he became a bricklayer. He suffered from stomach pain for much of his adult life, claiming that it was due to the hard work he was forced to do on the farm by his father.

A couple of days before February 15, he spent $8 at a pawn shop on a US Army revolver. Then he went to FDR’s speech.

Zangara was short, not much more than 5’ tall. He found a folding chair, and watched Roosevelt speak over the hat of Lillian Cross. From this, apparently, somewhat wobbly chair, Zangara took his first shot at the president, but he missed. Cross and some others standing nearby grabbed his arm and pulled him down, though he did get off four more shots.

Zangara did manage to hit several people other than the president. He wounded Mrs. Joseph H. Gill,  Miss Margaret Kruis of Newark, N.J., New York Detective/Bodyguard William Sinnott, Russell Caldwell of Miami, and Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, who was standing on the running board of the car next to Roosevelt. About two weeks later, Cermak died. Zangara was originally charged with attempted murder, but the charge was upped to murder when Cermak died, and Zangara was executed.

Zangara confessed, though it wouldn’t have made a difference since the crowd almost beat him to death. He said, “I have the gun in my hand. I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists.” What’s interesting about reading up on Joe Zangara is that there is a fair amount of information about him, but nobody ever calls him a communist. He is called an anarchist, and anarchist was a name given to communist activists in Europe back in those days, but he’s not called a communist. FDR was one of the most socialist presidents in our nation’s history, and a communist tried to kill him.

Some of the historians who write about this event in American history talked about how Roosevelt’s composure in the cemented Americans’ perception of him as a leader. But the person I’m most impressed with is Lillian Cross, a woman who must have had her ears practically blown off by Zangara’s gun but immediately turned and grabbed for the gunman’s arm. To me, she was the doughty one.

The picture is “An original front page of The Miami Herald on the day after the assassination attempt by Giuseppe Zangara on FDR at Miami’s Bayfront Park in February 1933” (https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article131007844.html).

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