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GRUNTLE

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GRUNTLE

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Oct 16, 2005 10:34 pm

• gruntle •


Pronunciation: grênt-êl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. [Intransitive] To grumble, complain, grouse, mutter complaints. 2. [Transitive] To assuage, mollify, to put in a good mood (humorous usage according to Merriam-Webster and Encarta).

Notes: As you can see from the two contradictory meanings of today's Good Word, there is some disagreement as to how it is to be used. Most of us avoid it, assuming that disgruntle is an orphan negative (a negative without a corresponding positive antonym, like inept). A few writers, beginning with P. G. Wodehouse in Code of Woosters (1938), have created gruntle by removing the dis- from disgruntle and reversing the meaning, e.g. "I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled." Obviously, the aim here is humor.

In Play: In fact, the verb gruntle has been around since the turn of the 15th century with the first meaning above: "Several members of the choir are gruntling about the new organist's refusal to wear a robe over her flashy dresses." Because it is intransitive, we have to use a preposition like about with it: "There is no pleasing Andy Madder; he gruntles about everything."

Word History: Since the suffix -le was once a diminutive marker, the original meaning was "to grunt a little, make a small grunt", the sort of sound piglets would make. (In fact, gruntling has served as the term for a piglet in the past.) In this meaning, gruntle was first printed around 1400. Apparently, the prefix dis- was added toward the end of the 17th century to make the intransitive verb transitive. Now writers are taking it off again. The root, grunt, is thought to have an onomatopoetic or imitative origin.
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face

Postby podictionary » Mon Oct 17, 2005 7:25 pm

Since "gruntle" was also a word meaning the human face around 500 years ago, what do you make of the theory that "disgruntled" is to have an unpleasant expression on one's face due to being displeased?
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Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Oct 18, 2005 5:08 pm

Nice to have you aboard, Mr Hodgson ! I've been able to confirm the two uses given for the term «gruntle» by our dear doctor (at least one dictionary, however, says it means to make small grunts, which may not necessarily indicate displeasure) with the on-line resources at my disposal, but have been unable to locate any source indicating that it was used to refer to the human face. Perhaps you could point me in the right direction ?...

Henri
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Postby podictionary » Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:49 pm

I took a closer look at the OED. The trajectory of this word appears to have begun as the sound a hog makes (or made) "grunt" circa 725, then around 1400 have been a diminutive of the same sound as "gruntle" (the OED here says this denotes sounds of animals, rarely people) then by the early 1500s it is tranformed from a verb to a noun referring to the pig's snout (as source of the sound I suppose), and finally to people's faces. There are three citations spaning 1508 to 1819 (all seem to be of Scottish origin).
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Postby tcward » Tue Oct 18, 2005 11:16 pm

...by the early 1500s it is tranformed from a verb to a noun referring to the pig's snout (as source of the sound I suppose), and finally to people's faces.


Hmm... wonder if there could be any relationship to grin...?

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Disgruntled face

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Oct 20, 2005 12:04 pm

Actually, it is not a bad hypothesis. I haven't seen anything that would confirm it, but in the field of etymology, that is not unusual.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:15 pm

tcward wrote:...

Hmm... wonder if there could be any relationship to grin...?


I've always connected this English word with the Swedish verb «grina», meaning, depending upon whether one lives in the south or more northerly regions of the country, either to laugh (thus corresponding fairly well to the English «grin») or to cry. As regards the English word, the AHD offers the following etymology :

[Middle English grennen, to grimace, from Old English grennian.]


Svenska Akademins Ordbok (I heard, by the way, on the radio just the other day that they expect to finish the last volume in 2017, which does give one something for which to live) has the following to say about the etymology of «grina» :

ETYMOLOGI: [motsv. d. grine, nor. grina, isl. grina, mnt. grnen, fht. grinan (varav t. greinen); i avljudsförhållande till feng. grǎnian (av ett germ. grainŏn), stöna, klaga, eng. groan; av ovisst urspr.]


Moreover, the basic meaning is said to be «to open wide» and thence «to show one's teeth», «to grimace», to «to threaten», and to «to smile in a sarcastic manner». Unfortunately the SAOB provides no clue as to how we got from there to «to weep», «to cry», which is the way the term is used here in Stockholm....

From the above it would seem that we are dealing with a Germanic word which had to do with sounds uttered as a response to pain or effort, which certainly would make «grunt» a likely relative, but which it seems nobody had been able to trace further back in 1929, when the volume was printed. As for «groan», AHD provides the following etymology :

[Middle English gronen, from Old English grānian.]


«Grānian» or «grǎnian» - these words do certainly seem to have a great deal to do with each other. To bad we can't (?) seem to trace them further back !...

Henri

PS : Thanks, Charles, for tracing «gruntle» through the OED, one of the sites on the web where information, alas, doesn't seem to want to be free....
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Postby gailr » Thu Oct 20, 2005 9:10 pm

Henri
Moreover, the basic meaning is said to be «to open wide» and thence «to show one's teeth», «to grimace», to «to threaten», and to «to smile in a sarcastic manner». Unfortunately the SAOB provides no clue as to how we got from there to «to weep», «to cry», which is the way the term is used here in Stockholm....


Perhaps Lewis Carroll can offer this clue (right after the pepper & beating song):
The baby grunted again, and Alice looked very anxiously into its face to see what was the matter with it. There could be no doubt that it had a very turn-up nose, much more like a snout than a real nose; also its eyes were getting extremely small for a baby: altogether Alice did not like the look of the thing at all. `But perhaps it was only sobbing,' she thought, and looked into its eyes again, to see if there were any tears.

No, there were no tears. `If you're going to turn into a pig, my dear,' said Alice, seriously, `I'll have nothing more to do with you. Mind now!' The poor little thing sobbed again (or grunted, it was impossible to say which), and they went on for some while in silence.

Alice was just beginning to think to herself, `Now, what am I to do with this creature when I get it home?' when it grunted again, so violently, that she looked down into its face in some alarm. This time there could be no mistake about it: it was neither more nor less than a pig, and she felt that it would be quite absurd for her to carry it further.

So she set the little creature down, and felt quite relieved to see it trot away quietly into the wood. `If it had grown up,' she said to herself, `it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.' And she began thinking over other children she knew, who might do very well as pigs, and was just saying to herself, `if one only knew the right way to change them--'...


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