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About 20 years ago, I had a book that was definitions of colorful, interesting, unusual, and oddly specific words. One of the words described someone who engaged in (and possibly enjoyed, but I don't remember) the act of destroying or vandalizing monuments.

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    Are you sure it was exclusively monuments? – marcellothearcane Sep 15 '19 at 5:58
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    I'm absolutely positive. – ianrandmckenzie Sep 15 '19 at 6:00
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    Okay, that's interesting. Perhaps identifying the book would help here's some guidelines from Scifi SE which might help – marcellothearcane Sep 15 '19 at 6:05
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    Thanks for the link! Unfortunately, the only thing I remember about the book is this specific word I'm looking for and its definition. Aside from that, the only extra information I can give is that it had a sort of sepia color palette with a line illustration on the front. – ianrandmckenzie Sep 15 '19 at 6:09
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    Might it have been a satirical/humorous dictionary composed of made up words or cynical definitions? Like, say, "Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce? – PavelAndré Sep 15 '19 at 11:14
30

I was able to find the following:

Antivitruvian (adj): Taking pleasure in destroying architectural monuments.

From "Insulting English" by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea, page 12.

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  • Yes! This was exactly it! That was the book I read as well. You got everything spot on. Thank you! – ianrandmckenzie Sep 17 '19 at 21:02
  • @ianrandmckenzie Happy to help! – zoupah Sep 17 '19 at 21:32
  • Ohhh great word! I love it! – Jelila Sep 17 '19 at 21:37
  • Is this "antivitruvian" or "anti-vitruvian"? Most usages (Google search) seem to be the latter... – CJBS Sep 19 '19 at 16:08
  • @CJBS I copied it from the book, so I don't know (I'm not an expert in this field). Was just trying to find the word OP was asking for :) – zoupah Sep 19 '19 at 16:14
60

Could you perhaps mean iconoclast? Historically, this means a person who destroys images in religious buildings because they see them as idols. The meaning has been extended to include people who attack (physically or otherwise) respected objects or cherished beliefs.

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    A good one, but I don't recall there being religious attachments to the word. – ianrandmckenzie Sep 15 '19 at 22:17
  • Not all monuments are images. – RonJohn Sep 16 '19 at 7:34
  • @ianrandmckenzie Historically, yes; for example Puritans in 17th century England. – Kate Bunting Sep 16 '19 at 7:59
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    The origins of this word certainly have their roots in religion, but today the word is used far more widely than just those who object to religious monuments—probably for lack of a good alternative. This answer would be improved by noting that, particularly considering the @ianrandmckenzie’s comment. – KRyan Sep 16 '19 at 16:43
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    These days the word is used much more to refer to people who attack or eschew popular beliefs or institutions, not usually specific to physical defacement. – Barmar Sep 16 '19 at 18:16
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There is Petracide which is the destruction of ancient stone buildings or monuments (but not necessarily the vandalising of them).

From The Wordsworth Book of Intriguing Words (P. Hellweg, 1986)

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    That's why I included the reference to my source. – KillingTime Sep 15 '19 at 6:47
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    Not to be confused with patricide ... – Rand al'Thor Sep 15 '19 at 14:29
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    @Justin always good to know there’s no middle-man changing the definitions of words! – Tim Sep 16 '19 at 16:05
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    @ianrandmckenzie This is an artificial coinage that is surpassingly unlikely to have been something you read just about anywhere, since it’s not “really” a word. Google fails to find any usages in its corpus of books from the last two centuries, for example. – KRyan Sep 16 '19 at 16:41
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    Great word for a stone cold killer. – JPhi1618 Sep 16 '19 at 20:36
8

Merriam-Webster:

A vandal is someone who willfully or ignorantly destroys, damages, or defaces property belonging to another or to the public.

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7

Pretty sure "iconoclast" is the only applicable word.

It's possible to cobble together any word you want, in English, by sticking Greek or Latin roots together. Sometimes people do that for amusement purposes. Is that what your book was? If there were a generally-used word for that, it surely wouldn't be so hard to find!

Besides Ambrose Bierce's, "The Meaning Of Liff" is another one of those comedy dictionaries from the early 1980s. Douglas Adams wrote it. It gives place names in the UK funny definitions as if they were real words. It was popular back then, maybe that's what you're remembering?

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  • Doesn't this only apply to religious artifacts? – Kenneth K. Sep 16 '19 at 15:09
  • I suppose technically it does. I just don't think there's a better word, applicable to all statuary, etc. – Greenaum Sep 16 '19 at 15:20
  • @KennethK. No, if you check the dictionary you'll see that's not true. – Casey Sep 16 '19 at 18:30
  • @Casey I did, but thanks. – Kenneth K. Sep 16 '19 at 18:46
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    @KennethK. Ethimologically speaking, iconoclastic does not refer to religious artifacts. The religious connection is probably due to Byzantine Iconoclasm. – gboffi Sep 17 '19 at 10:22
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"Desecrator" should work in this context -

Desecrator

(plural desecrators)

: A person who profanes or violates the sacredness or sanctity of something.

(Source)

Here, "something" can refer to any monument or building in general.


The verb form would be -

Desecrate

  • treat (a sacred place or thing) with violent disrespect.

  • spoil (something which is valued or respected).

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3

Idoloclast

A ‘breaker of idols’.

I looked up ‘clast’ and it means ‘a fragment of rock’.

So I looked up ‘words ending in clast’ and I found ‘idoloclast’ - someone who breaks idols.

Hope this is the word you want, as a monument is ‘statue, building, or other structure erected to commemorate a famous or notable person or event.’ Which is kind of like an ‘idol’ (although we may not worship it!) ‘Monument’ did previously include the meaning ‘effigy’ (now obsolete), by the way.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/monument

Example: ‘the idoloclasts are smashing up the ancient petroglyphs’.

As an aside, smashing cultural heritage has now been included as a war crime. Although, often after wars, many idolatrous statues (eg of tyrants) created by regimes, are taken down. There are whole articles on that, online.

Idoloclast: https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/idoloclast

Another nice ‘clast’ word is ‘mythoclast’ - a decrier of myths. I’m going to remember that one!

I did find ‘idoloclast’ mentioned in ‘Putnam’s word book’

https://archive.org/stream/putnamswordbookp00flemrich/putnamswordbookp00flemrich_djvu.txt

There is also ‘idoloclasm’: https://books.google.co.id/books?id=_-GEDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT255&lpg=PT255&dq=idoloclasm&source=bl&ots=MZcgSqXxCr&sig=ACfU3U3G_GVyqto5nPpwawNeEcgCIBX0iQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiOn7vClNbkAhXQXisKHQ8oBn4Q6AEwDnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=idoloclasm&f=false

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Given that -cide means kill, and -clast means something that breaks, the word should be neither petracide nor iconoclast but petraclast: a breaker of rocks.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Sep 22 '19 at 4:08
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Its not a single word, but a term often used to metaphorically describe someone who specifically attempts to destroy a monument or work of art is "Laszlo Toth".

This is the name of a deranged individual who took to Michelangelo's Pietà with a sledgehammer in 1971.

For something that isn't quite as specific, but is a single word, I'd agree with the other answers that suggest "iconoclast". Literally, that word is meant to indicate someone who destroys religious iconography. Its more often these days used more metaphorically to indicate a person that attacks things others hold sacred. The implication is usually that the thing in question is revered for no good reason, other than that it always has been, and the "iconoclast" is doing everyone a favor.

By comparison, calling someone a Laszlo Toth generally indicates they are being destructive of valuable things that would be difficult or impossible to replace for no real good reason.

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  • A Google search for "a Laszlo Toth" gives only 1400 results; I've checked the first 30, and only one can even be considered as relevant ("a Laszlo Toth complex"). – Edwin Ashworth Sep 16 '19 at 18:12
  • @EdwinAshworth - I usually hear it used as either an overt metaphor, or occasionally even a simile. For example, I can remember hearing comedian Dennis Miller using it in routines at least twice (although he is rather famous for using super obscure references. Here's a third I was unaware of). – T.E.D. Sep 16 '19 at 18:16
  • I'd rather remember Michelangelo and forget ... er.... – Edwin Ashworth Sep 16 '19 at 18:21
  • I have never seen criminals names used to name a type of destruction, except maybe on TV crimes shows quoting medical literature... – Lambie Sep 16 '19 at 18:54
  • Cf. Don Novello, who wrote subversive letters to various prominent people using the nom de plume "Lazlo Toth." – Robusto Sep 16 '19 at 20:04

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