Rough - ruff

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Rough and ruff form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these. Both rough and ruff are pronounced to rhyme with 'tough' and 'cuff', IPA: /rʌf/. The current page in Awe tries to outline the senses of rough. For ruff (and ruffe), go to ruff

  • Rough may most commonly be an adjective, but is also current as a noun and a verb. It exists as an adverb, but this is largely regarded as non-standard.
    • The adjective rough is contrasted with 'smooth'. The basic literal meaning is 'perceptible to the sense of touch as not even {on the surface]', 'not level', 'not smooth'; of water and winds, opposed to 'calm', it indicates a tempestuous, boisterous, turbulent surface. Rough is specifically applied in many ways, of which some are:
      • rough cloth (or textiles generally) is that without a fine finish, such as sacking, sackcloth and hairshirts (worn for mortification of the flesh and penitence) and blankets, as opposed to sheets
      • on the subject of animals, rough refers to fur or hair, and denotes 'shaggy', 'long', 'unshorn or untrimmed'; rough skins or leather are those from which the hair has not been removed
      • rough ground is unpaved, not smooth, difficult to walk on; uncultivated, wild; often rocky, In golf, it refers to the less tended, 'wild', grass that surrounds the fairway; in cricket, to the patches near the wicket worn by the players' feet, which may be exploited by spin bowlers.
        • In tennis, rough refers to the side of a racquet showing the loops of the strings; the fall of the racquet after it is spun may be used like a coin toss to determine which player starts.
      • not finished, sketchy, 'simply made' (OED), e.g. rough furniture may be made from re-used wood; made quickly or provisionally, as a writer may make a rough plan of her next composition or a painter a rough sketch of her intended painting or a mathematician a rough estimate of the result of calculations
      • not yet worked or useful, such as the rough marble which a sculptor receives from the quarry before carving it; a student starting a new topic may have a rough idea of what it entails, and may then keep notes on rough [i.e. not good quality] paper before coming to a fuller understanding.
        • A rough diamond is figuratively "a person having high intrinsic worth and good character but lacking in manners, education, or refinement" (OED, 2011); literally it is a gemstone as found, uncut and unpolished.
      • rudimentary; result of the first steps of a process, such as the rough outline cut by the apprentice, whose master did the fine detail; an author may submit a rough outline of a text to a publisher as a proposal.
      • A rough vacuum is a first stage of removing matter from a space, used practically in a Dewar (Thermos) flask etc.
      • a general sense of violence or harshness: rough treatment, used literally, involves physical action and brutality, albeit sometimes minor. It may be a form of unofficial punishment.
        • This can also be applied to places, such as areas characterized by lawlessness, unsophisticated pubs, etc.; historical periods; people, or their appearances, who are not gentle and "inclined to be violent or harsh" (OED, 2011); or of language which is aggressive, harsh, not gentle. Of horses, rough may mean 'not yet broken', or tamed.
      • More figuratively, it may be generally 'adverse', 'unpleasant' in the sense of 'unfortunate' or 'unfair'. Rough medicine literally means doses that are violent in their effect; figuratively it is applied to anything intended to improve, but may be violent and or unpleasant in its application.
      • There is a general sense of 'unrefined' or 'coarse'. Of a voice or other sound, rough means 'harsh' or discordant; crude or grating
        • In classical Greek, the sound of the English 'h' (IPA: /h/) was not written as a separate letter, but indicated by the diacritic ʿ placed over a vowel or the letter 'rho' (Ρ ρ, with rough breathing Ῥ ῥ)
      • In ordinary English speech, rough means 'unpolished', 'uneducated', coarse or rude; as a comment on written style, it implies 'uncultivated', 'unpolished', lacking grace or inelegant
      • Of the taste of foodstuffs, particularly alcoholic drinks, it means 'unrefined', 'harsh' and generally unsophisticated; of accommodation, it means similarly 'homely' and unsophisticated; simple (often with the implication of 'honest', straightforward).
    • The verbs 'to rough' are basically verbal equivalents of the adjectives above, though less common. The sense of 'to make less smooth' is nowadays usually expressed by 'to roughen'; the sense of 'do the preliminary work on [e.g. with wood or stone'] or make a draught or sketch of' is often 'to rough out'; the sense of 'to treat with aggression or violence' etc, 'to manhandle' is usually conveyed by the phrasal verb to rough up, although in American football various offences within the game, usually to protect vulnerable players from risk, are called roughing offences ('roughing the passer', etc).
      • There was also an archaic 'to rough'' meaning 'to clear one's throat', 'to hawk', as well as an obsolete noun meaning a fish of the Rajiformes or batoidea - a ray. Other nominal uses of rough'; include:
    • A rough isdisorderly or violent person, usually male, with strong connotations of 'lower class', 'uneducated', 'unsocialized' - a hooligan, or ruffian.
      • A 'bit of rough' is a sexual partner whose unsophisticated and perhaps violent behaviour is found attractive. This too has strong class implications