Like a "cad", only not.
April 29, 2005 8:17 AM   Subscribe

What word would you use to describe this person? Young, British, male, upper middle class; no regular job, career or profession; probably has some talent(s) or other and gets by doing odd bits of work for friends, friends of friends, or friends of daddy. A bit of a slacker really, but not someone who lives off their parents or spends their time partying. Any ideas? The quainter the better.

"cad" is in the right area, but has lots of bad implications.
posted by cillit bang to Writing & Language (65 answers total)
 
dilettante? wastrel?
posted by jonmc at 8:18 AM on April 29, 2005


Layabout?
posted by scratch at 8:19 AM on April 29, 2005


Twit?
posted by mimi at 8:26 AM on April 29, 2005


I've always been a fan of ne'er-do-well, but that does not exactly meet your requirements.
posted by evilelf at 8:28 AM on April 29, 2005


Flaneur [An aimless idler; a loafer, from the French 'wanderer/stroller'.]? Gen X slacker? Sometime-artist? Gadfly? Floater? Damien Hirst wannabe?
posted by fionab at 8:42 AM on April 29, 2005


Sounds kind of like a "floater" think of an ambling bumblebee.
posted by AllesKlar at 8:43 AM on April 29, 2005


what fionab said
posted by AllesKlar at 8:43 AM on April 29, 2005


Sounds like a question worthy of Colin Meloy. Gadabout?
posted by ludwig_van at 8:45 AM on April 29, 2005


I second dilettante. Also dabbler.

And, just because its apropos, this bit from Brian Eno:

Q: "All this can make you sound a bit of a dabbler, can't it, a bit of a dilettante?"

A: "Well," said Eno. "I am a dilettante. It's only in England that dilettantism is considered a bad thing. In other countries it's called 'inter-disciplinary research'."
posted by googly at 8:45 AM on April 29, 2005


gadabout
posted by wsg at 8:49 AM on April 29, 2005


Slightly off topic but speaking of Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists), his line "I'm somthing of a ne'er-do-well even though that's something I never could do well" cracks me up.
posted by Staggering Jack at 8:56 AM on April 29, 2005


Dickie Greenleaf?
Prince Charles perhaps?

Or seriously...a ne'er-do-well
posted by peacay at 9:00 AM on April 29, 2005


snap! jack.
posted by peacay at 9:01 AM on April 29, 2005


"Flake" - although it's still negative, it's less negative than "cad". However, I think gadabout fits the bill.
posted by deborah at 9:08 AM on April 29, 2005


Kato Kailin?
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:10 AM on April 29, 2005


I 'third' fionab's flaneur. It's a touch archaic and obscure, and thus lacks the pejorative conations of the suggested alternatives, and it's French, and thus - to my ears - hints of a touch of class.
posted by mojohand at 9:13 AM on April 29, 2005


Sounds kind of like a "floater" think of an ambling bumblebee.

I will suggest "amblebee". I made this word up.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:14 AM on April 29, 2005


I don't know: ne'er-do-well has a negative connotation right off the bat, and may be worse in that regard than a simple 'cad'. I do like dilettante, dabler, gadabout or my personal favourite, flaneur.
posted by fionab at 9:15 AM on April 29, 2005


Dilettante is absolutely wrong.
posted by kenko at 9:20 AM on April 29, 2005


Yeah...I think gadabout is the closest. didn't notice your ne'er-do-well evilelf
Otherwise you need 2 words for closer description.
Then there's some nearly close but possibly more quaint... older english loafer's ---- tarrier, dilly-dallier.
posted by peacay at 9:23 AM on April 29, 2005


How about another vote for flaneur. It's also used to describe a bicycle racer who won't work or contrbute to a breakaway, who just sits in and wheelsucks.
posted by fixedgear at 9:24 AM on April 29, 2005


Country squire.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:27 AM on April 29, 2005


Person of Leisure.
posted by rainbaby at 9:29 AM on April 29, 2005


if they've got long hair, there's always trustafarian.
posted by handee at 9:31 AM on April 29, 2005


bunburrying maybe, but it involves more deception
posted by alex3005 at 9:34 AM on April 29, 2005


I should read the page before posting. *sigh*
I withdraw the above (well, depending on context when used - which is the ultimate criteria for the word choice) and also agree with flaneur I think.
posted by peacay at 9:34 AM on April 29, 2005


I've got a friend in London who's just like that. I can't to call him some of these things.

Anyone else know this type of person?
posted by redteam at 9:47 AM on April 29, 2005


I can't wait to call him some of these things.

Argh. Sorry.
posted by redteam at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2005


I say get out your favourite P.G. Wodehouse novels and stroll through the pages for excellent descriptions of this sort of fellow.

(And I second or third either "gadfly" or "gadabout".)
posted by NewGear at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2005


Furita?
posted by plinth at 9:56 AM on April 29, 2005


The description sounds like a friend of mine who entered Person of Leisure on his (American) census form as his profession.
posted by rainbaby at 10:02 AM on April 29, 2005


People, people! There's a whole other part of speech to be strip-mined! We just have to come up with sufficiently archaic adjectives: a rakish gadabout, perhaps?

Or you could go with something like dauphin, which seems ripe for a revival.
posted by Vervain at 10:10 AM on April 29, 2005


Dandy!
posted by inksyndicate at 10:11 AM on April 29, 2005


(ideally a foppish dandy)
posted by inksyndicate at 10:11 AM on April 29, 2005


"Nonproductive member of society"?
posted by anapestic at 10:17 AM on April 29, 2005


Actually, the OED describes a rake as "an idle dissipated man of fashion", which seems about right. (Props to Vervain.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:25 AM on April 29, 2005


Dandy was my first thought, though I think I like flaneur better. Modern French uses the verb, flâner, to mean (I think) to laze about.
posted by librarina at 10:27 AM on April 29, 2005


I second Wodehouse. In the short story Ukridge's Dog College, Ukridge, a consumate gadabout and a charming idler, is described as "flitting about the world like a snipe". So how about "a snipe?"
posted by Panfilo at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2005


Gadabout might work, but gadfly is clearly not the word you're looking for. I like flaneur.
posted by cardboard at 10:35 AM on April 29, 2005


I dunno, Peer? Do you know his politics? Perhaps he feels that contributing to society in the normal fashion is not really his style...

Trustafarians *usually* have dreads/smell like patchouli/listen to Ben Harper/etc...at least until daddy freezes the trust (i guess that technically ends the trustifarianism).
posted by schyler523 at 10:49 AM on April 29, 2005


Playboy?

( I also think "Flaneur" is good.)
posted by danny boy at 11:00 AM on April 29, 2005


Mine are American yet I live in the southern portion, which has a large UK influence in it fwiw.

If the guy plans on attending college or a university in the near future -- Bachelor.
Another name is "an estate baby" who types I meet in Dallas all the time. Also the person you are describing supports himself through nepotism. So maybe you could form a name from it, Nep.

Good ole boy is also used in the South to describe a type of person like this. Are you describing Bush as he is a “good ole boy.”

Asshole fits your description too. Because that is what they end up being called in the later years of life. Their relationships with workers, business partners, friends, wives and family members bestows the title to him.

Years ago, Jerk that translates today to Tool
posted by thomcatspike at 11:18 AM on April 29, 2005


sinecure? Although that is more indicative of employment than an epithet
posted by sciurus at 11:33 AM on April 29, 2005


The thing that confuses me: he gets by doing odd bits of work, yet is upper middle class without surviving off his parents. These must be pretty lucrative odd bits of work!

(on preview, I would kill for a sinecure.)
posted by kenko at 11:54 AM on April 29, 2005


Good ole boy is also used in the South to describe a type of person like this.

Beg pardon, tcs, but I ain't never heard "good ole boy" used that way. In fact, a good ole boy would have a twit like this in the sights of his shotgun in about two shakes.

I don't know: ne'er-do-well has a negative connotation right off the bat

And you think the connotation should not be negative... why, exactly?

I don't think any of the words suggested are on target, although the Wodehouse recommendation certainly is. How about "Bertie"?
posted by languagehat at 12:38 PM on April 29, 2005


he gets by doing odd bits of work, yet is upper middle class without surviving off his parents. These must be pretty lucrative odd bits of work!

class is very real. People connected to the right people can make a plush living doing very little. They aren't directly living off daddy, but in a way they are; they'll simply get a high rate, a nice contract, a head's up on positions and investments, without having to really 'work a day in their life'. The thing is that so many people don't realize how much harder/easier things are for others; they assume it's more or less the same for everyone, and it's just not.
posted by mdn at 12:48 PM on April 29, 2005


Slackers doesn't imply people who live off their parents or spend their time partying. That said, 'slacker' isn't quaint. Your description reminds me or Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey, as well as Wodehouse's Bertie.

From the suggestions above I like 'dabbler'; too many of the others imply a negative social aspect that you haven't described. 'Idler' is good. You might try calling him "young master so-and-so", or "the scion of so-and-so". He sounds like quite the young gentleman.
posted by fleacircus at 1:15 PM on April 29, 2005


Gadabout doesn't have the negative connotation. Gadabout, damn it! I want that checkmark!
posted by wsg at 1:20 PM on April 29, 2005


Here's another French offering: faineant.
posted by nancoix at 1:20 PM on April 29, 2005


This person sort of reminds me of the girl in the Pulp song "Common People," except... a guy.
posted by elisabeth r at 1:31 PM on April 29, 2005


Beg pardon, tcs, but I ain't never heard "good ole boy" used that way.
I should have added that it was said with tongue in cheek or sarcastically. I honestly can't recall hearing it used for a positive quality other than on the Dukes of Hazards.

If you think of this phrase describing a good person form the country it will be more pinpointing in your city as it is a big city full a native city dwellers. In my city it may be less descriptive as a lot people grew up in the country and now reside here. So it makes the phrase’s descriptive impact less pinpointing. I rarely hear this phrase being used as it was meant. I can’t believe you have not heard Bush binge described negatively by the phrase “good ole boy.”


Excuse the thread's derail.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:33 PM on April 29, 2005


wanker?
posted by jasper411 at 1:33 PM on April 29, 2005


Person of Leisure.

That's what you call a pimp, dude.
posted by jonmc at 1:43 PM on April 29, 2005


Sounds like a flaming boor to me.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 2:04 PM on April 29, 2005


hows about rapscallion or raconteur?
posted by xz at 2:59 PM on April 29, 2005


No doubt there's a suitable answer above, but for my part-I have to say: need more information. It's the "probably" that troubles me. There's a difference between those who cannot cope with the world, and those who simply do not. One is sad, the other tragic (or comic, in the right hands).

Also- is this person otherwise charming, or repellent?
posted by IndigoJones at 3:01 PM on April 29, 2005


Thanks all. Dilettante/Dabler/Person of leisure seem closest to what I was describing.


(The actual person I'm thinking of is a guy on a TV show who seemed to have made a lot installing a handful of retractable glass roofs he invented in high-end homes, but didn't seem interested in money enough to keep doing it. Later in the show was directing a music video for some reason. He certainly wasn't rich though, and he did seem capable of getting work done when needed)

The thing that confuses me: he gets by doing odd bits of work, yet is upper middle class without surviving off his parents. These must be pretty lucrative odd bits of work

In British society, people are born into their class, it has nothing to do with money. The upper middle class probably has less actual money than the lower middle class, who work high-stress management jobs because they need cash to keep up with the Joneses.
posted by cillit bang at 3:03 PM on April 29, 2005


languagehat: because he said that 'cad' has bad implications, and that seems about on par with ne'er-do-well. Slightly different connotations, but if cad is too negative, I can't imagine that ne'er-do-well would be correct. It wasn't a value judgement on this type of person, it was just trying follow the post :-)
posted by fionab at 3:35 PM on April 29, 2005


Someone I met at a party in L.A. had business cards printed with "Motorist" as the occupation. Not sure if it applies in your case.
posted by electro at 3:50 PM on April 29, 2005


Trustafarian, definitely.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2005


lucky.
posted by crunchland at 4:53 PM on April 29, 2005


Bludger
posted by johnny7 at 7:00 AM on April 30, 2005


Rogue? Knave?

(xz: "rapscallion" Awesome.)
posted by attercoppe at 9:41 AM on April 30, 2005


Sorry to be so late to this thread, but I guess that's par for the course. :-))

If your man fully understands what he is doing and why, and is happy to explain it to you at length over a cup of tea, then there is only one word for him, and it is: Idler.
posted by cleardawn at 4:11 PM on May 22, 2005


And here are some of the summer jobs the Idler is forced, often by his parents, into doing.
posted by cleardawn at 4:16 PM on May 22, 2005


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