• grit •
Pronunciation: grit • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Small coarse granules, as of sand. 2. In the plural (grits): sand-like granules of ground corn used in a delicious side-dish in the southern US and wherever fine cuisine is appreciated. 3. Pluck, spirit, spunk, moxie, gutsiness, gumption.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a rarity: an English word spelled exactly as it is pronounced. Enjoy! The plural of today's word refers to a characteristic dish of the Southeastern US, hulled dried corn ground into small grits, or hominy (a corruption of Virginia Algonquian appuminneonash "something ground"). Grits are boiled in water and seasoned with butter or ham gravy. They go well with shrimp creole, too.
In Play: Rooster Cogburn in Charles Portis's novel True Grit is the quintessential US character with grit in the third sense of today's Good Word. John Wayne won an academy award for his interpretation of that character on screen in 1969. The association may have come from the grit in a bird's gizzard, which is essential for its digestion. Anyway, "It takes real grit to eat a helping of Aunt Lola's grits with red-eye gravy (from salt-cured ham) and ask for a second helping."
Word History: Today's word is a distant cousin of groats, grounds, and grist, all from the verb grind or its ancestors. The original Indo-European root was *ghre(n)dh- "to grind" with a Fickle N, an N that came and went for no apparent reason. In initial position, [gh] became [f] in Latin, so its verb for "grind" was frendere. Greek khondros "granule, groats" may share the same source. For sure Lithuanian gruzti "to crush, pound" and Latvian grauds "grain" come from the same source, as does Russian skrezhetat' "to grind (the teeth)". The verb, to grit (your teeth)" still means "to grind or grate". (Prudence Pender gave us a lot of grist to grind in our word mill when she suggested today's granular Good Word.)