Now, we've just spotted this rare bird again. In Sunday's New York Times, investigative reporter and Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World author William D. Cohan used it to describe the wolf of The Wolf of Wall Street fame, Jordan Belfort.
Maybe it's those five Oscar nominations for "The Wolf of Wall Street," including for best picture, best director and best actor, but we seem to be in another of those moments in popular culture when Hollywood plies us with skewed answers about how Wall Street miscreants caused so much mayhem.
Astute vocabularians have likely already connected the Christie-Wolf dots to ferret out miscreant's meaning. It's a person who is bad, and not in the gray-area kind of way. The word's for law breakers, candy-from-baby stealers, and the guy who hits you up at a parent's funeral for a loan.
Miscreant's meaning might seem curious to morphology fans who recognize the Latin root "cred-" or "believe" inside the word. What do "being bad" and "believing" have in common? To connect those dots, we need to travel back to the 14th century, when miscreant first appeared in English. Then, it meant "non-believer" or "heretic," which, in those religion-heavy times, were synonymous with "lowest of the low."
Now, an absence of religious belief is tolerated, even if the behavior of miscreants rarely is.