The powerful ruling class has been described as "the machine", "the man", "patricians", "the establishment", and "big brother". I am looking for similar words to describe the 99%, aka the plebeians (and more specifically the proletariat).
What are words that describe "the people" in the same way that "the machine" describes the ruling class?
Are you looking for words the members of this group use to describe themselves, or words the ruling class use to describe them? It makes a huge difference.– Monty HarderFeb 1, 2016 at 19:56
That is a good question. Both are interesting and equally important to be honest.– omar.mayFeb 1, 2016 at 22:31
8What is missing or not the right fit about the examples in your question? "the people", "the 99%", "the plebians", "the proletariat"? What characteristic(s) are you looking for which these lack?– user56reinstatemonica8Feb 2, 2016 at 13:03
3I have never heard "the machine" used for the upper class, the powers that be.– Mr ListerFeb 2, 2016 at 14:04
2@MrLister Heard this one? Pink Floyd - Welcome To The Machine– DCShannonFeb 2, 2016 at 16:59
Credit to Emma Lazarus:
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
4This is best. Some variations; the: commoners, workers, underclass, hoi polloi, many. Feb 1, 2016 at 7:55
Oooh... "The Machine and The Masses". I don't know if thats a book, band, or album, but I want it.– user53089Feb 2, 2016 at 2:14
1Also the unwashed masses, more derogatorily.– dangphFeb 2, 2016 at 8:28
"downtrodden masses" is another common, colourful pairing. Feb 2, 2016 at 13:04
The subjects, the constituents, the electorate, or, according to a certain lighthearted author (not me) - the refuse of history.
2Note that "Prole" is clearly intended to associate with "proletariat:. Feb 2, 2016 at 18:08
With reference to a "machine", it would seem "cogs" would indicate serving an inferior function.
2This could be a good one, though you should be careful to avoid a confusing metaphor since cogs are contained within a machine. It may suit your purposes but fits less well when cogs are rising up against the machine. Feb 1, 2016 at 12:40
1Cogs of the machine makes me think of government bureaucrats.– bjb568Feb 3, 2016 at 15:03
the ordinary persons, as distinguished from those who have wealth, rank, influence, etc.
"a man of the people"
As a complement to "the Man", you have "the little guy".
A specifically derogatory term is riffraff. Especially used for the lower classes:
the lowest classes; rabble:
the riffraff of the city.
Slang A person or group of people with less power, money, etc. than the rest of society: As a politician, her sympathy was always for the underdog in society. CDO
People of a low social position: Her speech stirred the emotions of the rabble. CDO
(Metallurgy) An iron tool or mechanical device for stirring, mixing, or skimming a molten charge in a roasting furnace CED
[C17: from French râble, from Latin rutābulum rake for a furnace, from ruere to rake, dig up]
(The) Hoi polloi: Oxford Dictionaries
The masses or common people.
4Ironically, this word sounds so "hoity-toity" that I've run into people who think it refers to the elites, rather than to the masses. Feb 1, 2016 at 20:49
Those people need re-educating :) Feb 1, 2016 at 21:46
1I try, but frequently am told that words mean what people who use them think they mean, which is quite depressing. In a case like this, by taking on a meaning opposite its original meaning, the word literally becomes meaningless. Feb 1, 2016 at 21:51
To be pedantic: the "hoi" is the article, so one wouldn't say "the hoi polloi". In English of course, that's exactly what we do say. Oh, and the contrast is hoi oligoi or "the few". Feb 2, 2016 at 4:55
@Sam Wilson Yes, sadly a lot of people do say it though! Feb 2, 2016 at 7:45
The great unwashed.
great unwashed pl (plural only)
- (idiomatic) A contemptuous term for the populace, particularly the working class.
IMO, the contempt mirrors the hostility shown by phrases such as the machine.
If the machine in question is the war machine then the people would presumably correspond to cannon fodder.
Depending on the context, I think "the sheep" could work.
I would say 'the drones' would be accurate in this analogy - "A person who does tedious or menial work; a drudge"
Or given that definition 'the drudges' - "A person who does tedious, menial, or unpleasant work."