A few months ago I came across a reference to something Bill Gates did at a technology conference. He released a swarm of mosquitoes and let the audience believe for a few moments that they were malaria carriers. A commentator at the Yahoo Buzz site mentioned the incident and ended the entry with these words:
Fortunately for the terrified attendees, the mosquitoes were malaria-free. ‘Twas all a rouse. Bill Gates 1, Terrified Minions 0.
As I’d had never seen the word “rouse” used in this way, the expression kept niggling at my mind. As I searched for an explanation I found the Yahoo quotation repeated on numerous sites, but I also found the words “all a rouse” in other blogging contexts. Gradually I determined that “all a rouse” seems to mean “all a deception.”
Here are some examples:
It’s all a rouse to keep everyone guessing as to the actual era/plot.
Thereby implying that it is all a rouse by the racist far right to stir up trouble.
Now, while it does look an awful lot like legitimate crocodile, it’s all a rouse – the surface is grooved and pigmented plastic and silicon, rather than covered in genetically modified croc skin.
Turns out these “survivors” are merely clones destined to have their organs harvested and the island is all a rouse.
Is our girl swapping affections with both of these well to do besties or is it perhaps all a rouse to keep prying eyes like ours on our toes?
Todd thinks it’s all a rouse, but they convince him that she really is dead.
Mentally I was pronouncing “rouse” in this context as I would the verb rouse: (rouz) (rhymes with drowse).
According to the OED the word rouse has been used as a noun, but none of the noun definitions come anywhere near the meaning with which the word is being used in the expression “all a rouse.”
Some meanings of “rouse” as a noun:
A shake (of the feathers, etc.). Obs.
The signal in the military for arousing; the réveille.
A violent stir.
A full draught of liquor; a bumper.
A carousal or bout of drinking.
Slowly the idea began to dawn that this new use of “rouse” as a noun might be nothing more than a misspelling of the word ruse: [rūs, rūz]. I was wishing I could ask these bloggers how they pronounce the word when I came across these lyrics:
Her lovin’ was all a rouse.
And all I have left is a memory of her–
I got the Blues!
Evidently this “rouse” rhymes with “blues.”
That pretty well settles it for me. I believe that this mysterious new use of “rouse” is nothing more than a misspelling of ruse.
ruse [rūs, rūz] noun: A crafty stratagem; a subterfuge.
If the conclusion I have drawn is incorrect, I know that you readers will set me straight in a jiffy.