What is a troglodyte(sp?)

I occasionally see the mouth-breathing variety mentioned and thought it was a pretty unique insult. To the point I’ve used it a couple of times. Problem is, I don’t know what it means. Is it some kind of creature from a Tolkein book?

Either way, what is it, and what makes it an insult?

trog·lo·dyte ( P ) Pronunciation Key (trgl-dt)

A member of a fabulous or prehistoric race of people that lived in caves, dens, or holes.
A person considered to be reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish.

An anthropoid ape, such as a gorilla or chimpanzee.
An animal that lives underground, as an ant or a worm

Essentially, a cave dweller.

Dictionary.com gives seven entries here.

Joan Crawford’s last costar.

And it’s not necessarily always cave dweller in the sense of uncultured. It can also mean stubbornly old-fashioned. If I recall correctly, during F.D.R.‘s presidency, the old-money upper-class Republican aristocracy of Washington, D.C., who hated “that man” for supporting workers’ rights and joked about his name really being “Rosenfeld” were called the Troglodytes.

Also, the genus/species name for the common Chimpanzee is Pan troglodytes.

I alway read “troglodyte” (rightly or wrongly) to mean something like “monkeyman” as far as insults go.

“The Troggs,” of “Wild Thing” fame, took their name from a shortening of troglodytes, a satirical response to the way rock music was viewed back in those primitive days.

The word was always more of a British usage, emerging from the vicious battles over the acceptance of Darwin. Many people did not like to think that humanity ever went through a brutish, primitive phase and the word took on additional negative connotations from its associations with apes.

The scientific name of the standard chimpanzee (as distinguished from the bonobo) is Pan troglodytes.

Oops, Hello Again got that in before me.

I’ve often wondered about the species name. They’re certainly not known as cave dwellers.

Chambers’ Dictionary of Etymology shows(as does the OED) that the word shows up in English in 1555. It was borrowed from Middle French(1552 Rabelais), or perhaps straight from the Latin troglodyta which stole from the Greeks troglodytes.

The derogatory uses seem to appear in about the mid-1800’s.

The word “troglodyte” also refers to a style of house built into the ground, commonly found in North Africa.