I’m almost halfway through Malaparte’s The Skin (which is the last of the books in my Naples reading project); I was quite enjoying it at first, despite its going overboard with the bitter irony (I figured that having been a journalist on the Eastern Front he was entitled to a good dose of bitter irony), but then I hit a chapter of such virulent homophobia I was set back on my heels. It’s especially depressing after the loving portrait of the gay bar in The Gallery, though of course John Horne Burns had the advantage of being gay. Still, I’m plugging along, and being rewarded with the occasional word hitherto unknown to me, like zazou (the French equivalent of zoot suiters, teddy boys, and stilyagi, the latter discussed at LH here); the most linguistically interesting of them so far is roturier. Malaparte refers to “the noble American roturiers who had invaded the Rive Gauche in 1920,” and this turns out to be an (ironic) oxymoron, because a roturier is “a person not of noble birth.” But the interesting part is the etymology; I quote the OED (entry updated March 2011):
Etymology: < Middle French roturier (French roturier) (adjective) not noble (a1272 in Old French), concerning an estate held by a commoner (1312 as rupturier), (noun) peasant (1306), commoner (1447) < roture roture n. + –ier -ier suffix. Compare post-classical Latin rupturarius (1072).
And the entry for roture (updated at the same time) says:
Etymology: < Middle French, French roture status of an estate held by a commoner (a1454 as rousture; earlier in sense ‘newly cleared land’ (1406 as roupture)), estate held by a commoner (16th cent.), status of a commoner, estate for which rent is paid (both 1549), commoners collectively (1611 in Cotgrave), specific use of Middle French roture breach, act of breaking (c1180) < classical Latin ruptūra (compare especially its post-classical Latin senses ‘reclamation of waste land, rent paid for such land’: see rupture n.).
That’s one I wouldn’t have guessed.