6. Craven

Thus spoke the CRAVEN 

Nevermore

You see how I left the raven out of the title?

That’s because Ravens in Poe poems

are not craven.

Other animals, in other circumstances  

Better represent this adjective.

For example

Being a scaredy cat is being craven.

Being a chicken is being craven.

From those more appropriate animal comparisons

One can glean that craven essentially means…

COWARDLY

More precisely, it is a flavor of being cowardly

A flavor that contemptibly lacks courage

Deserves scorn

And emanates a vibe of utter defeat.

Examples available for this type of person is a “Yes” man who does things regardless of where they point the needle on his moral compass.

Naturally, I came up with a few examples of craven versus coward

To see if I could effectively draw the distinction.  

Here goes:

A cowardly person would let the popular kids in school give his friend a swirly in the bathroom.

He would do this without objection, while he stood there and watched.  

A craven person would have gotten a swirly from these same people the day before. And now, so utterly defeated by the shame and ridicule that accompanied the experience

The craven person will now do what is asked of him from the popular kids

 in order to avoid the same shame of another traumatic experience,

even if the only way he can avoid this recurrent shame and ridicule,

is by sending his friend down the river,

OR in this case

Down the toilet.

They of craven disposition say yes to the bullies

They of craven disposition do what the bullies ask.

They nod their heads and prepare the toilet seat for impact,

They polish the flusher so the main bully can keep his hands clean during the act.

They despise what they are doing.

Yet

they 

do 

it 

anyway. 

Making them now, a bad friend

And an ally of those that they despise.

And yet

They will do nothing for their friend

But comply with the bully’s orders 

That

ladies and gents, is a craven human. 

You may be saying (that is if you read this far)

‘yeah’ but it’s also the definition of a cowardly human.

Fair enough.

In many cases these two words are directly interchangeable, true synonyms.

Therefore, using one word (craven) versus the other (cowardly) may be a question of style rather than substance.

The phrase ‘a craven king’, for example, is crisp. It has less syllables

it is more concise.

It pops off the page like bacon grease out of a pan.

It’s alternative,

the phrase,

‘a cowardly king’,

is longer.

Such length eliminates its zest.

So does the pronunciation.

‘A cowardly king’ is slurred

not delivered with a staccato pronunciation.

These  phonetic challenges, meaning saying craven versus cowardly

Must be balanced

against other writer needs, like pleasing their audience- whoever that is.

A simpler text, one that uses plain language for their reader’s sake, may opt for ‘cowardly’ as their word choice

to ensure

 there is no confusion

 about meaning.

Indeed, most English speakers know the meaning of the word cowardly.

The meaning of craven? Not so much. 

However, if the audience is more sophisticated,

You know, they drink their tea with their pinky up

They may appreciate aesthetics.

In which case

You may want to use craven.

Of course, if you were just using craven to sound smart

THAT

is cowardly.

Granted

there are exceptions to this rule.

Here’s one:

when you create a corny pun.

Something like this:

“The director Wes Craven is no craven, but his most famous movie

A Nightmare on Elm Street

could make you one.”

 

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