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Grueling

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Grueling

Postby Dr. Goodword » Fri May 03, 2013 10:40 pm

• grueling •


Pronunciation: gru-ê-ling • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Extraordinarily demanding and exhausting, 'punishing'.

Notes: Today's word seems to be an isolate, a lexical orphan without any relatives. However, it is an old participle of the verb gruel "to punish" (see Word History). If you live in the UK or other English-speaking region that uses British spelling rules, you will probably want to double the L in this word: gruelling. One L is sufficient in the US.

In Play: This common adjective refers to an exhaustion that is like punishment: "Constance Noring had a grueling day at the office: the boss kept looking over her shoulder all day." It is a good vocabulary item for those who consider any type of work punishment: "I lead a grueling life: clean up my room, clear the table, take out the garbage—one grueling task after another!" Sounds like a teenager, doesn't it?

Word History: Today's Good Word started out as a noun referring to a thin, runny oatmeal served to the ailing and infirm. It was also served in prisons to criminals and from this association it gathered a metaphorical sense of "punishment". Throughout the 19th century, "get your gruel" meant to get your just deserts (not desserts). By 1891 the noun gruel was being used alone as a verb meaning "to punish". Gruel was borrowed in 1199 from the French word with the same spelling. French borrowed it from an Old Germanic word grut "coarse meal, malt", a derivative of an even older word meaning "grain". From grain to punishment is a long semantic trail for a word to traverse.
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Re: Grueling

Postby MTC » Sat May 04, 2013 9:16 am

Well, here I am again, jumping into freshly powdered snow as it were.

Anyway, metaphors aside, Dr. G labels grueling a "lexical orphan." (Hard to escape metaphors, isn't it?) According to the Alpha Dictionary, "A lexical orphan is a word without derivational relatives." There's something pathetic and Dickensian about these Waif Words* tugging on our sleeves. How do they endure the grueling struggle for survival with other words without support? Do they all live together in a lexical orphanage? Might they be adopted? Is there a foundation for them of some sort? I'm going to investigate the Waif Words' plight and report to you with the results.

* (Apocrypha of MTC)
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Re: Grueling

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sat May 04, 2013 12:10 pm

"Please, sir, can I have some more?"
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: Grueling

Postby MTC » Sat May 04, 2013 12:52 pm

Status Report on Waif Words

What a great idea I thought I had, "Adopt a Word" at http://www.adoptaword.com. Unfortunately, others including the OED have adopted the idea (Sorry for that.) All words are up for adoption at their site, but I have in mind only the most needy--Waif Words. Thought you might enjoy a break from your grueling task. More on this later.
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Re: Grueling

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat May 04, 2013 12:54 pm

No mention of the noun "gruel," a thin porridge? Prob from the Germanic rut "grut" mentioned above. Would eating watery oatmeal be considered punishment for poverty?
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Re: Grueling

Postby MTC » Sat May 04, 2013 1:10 pm

Were you asking for more gruel, Luke?

Oliver Twist lives in a workhouse where the boys are "issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays." (Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens)

A diet of gruel aggravates grueling conditions in the workhouse, likely punishment for poverty as Perry suggests.
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Re: Grueling

Postby Slava » Sat May 04, 2013 2:24 pm

Perry Lassiter wrote:No mention of the noun "gruel," a thin porridge? Prob from the Germanic rut "grut" mentioned above. Would eating watery oatmeal be considered punishment for poverty?
Why do you say there is no mention? It's the first sentence in the Word History.
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Re: Grueling

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sat May 04, 2013 6:59 pm

Scanned too fast I reckon.
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