• curmudgeon •
kêr-mê-jên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A highly eccentric, contrary, and strongly opinionated person who seems to enjoy rocking the boat and upsetting apple-carts.
Notes: The adjective is curmudgeonly and curmudgeonry is the stuff that curmudgeons are made of. This word is fraught with spelling traps, so beware. Remember that the typical curmudgeon is a cur and a stick-in-the-mud; that will get you past the first two. Next remember that the [j] sound requires two letters: DG (remindful of another word for cur). Finally, keep in mind that curmudgeons have been around for at least an eon and you will have the rest of it. Of course, suggesting four mnemonic devices for remembering one word is a bit curmudgeonly itself, isn't it?
In Play: The function of a curmudgeon is generally taken to be squelching ideas that would better our lives: "Whenever Jack proffers a new idea at the office the curmudgeons come out of the woodwork to oppose it." But curmudgeons are contrary for the pure sake of contrariness: "Andrew's latest bit of curmudgeonry was refusing to buy his wife flowers for Valentine's Day because the prices were inflated."
Word History: No one knows for sure where today's Good Word comes from. It first appeared in Richard Stanyhurst's Description of Ireland (1577), suggesting the Emerald Isle as its origin. However, it doesn't suggest any word of Gaelic. In his 1755 dictionary, Samuel Johnson claimed that someone who remained unnamed convinced him that the word came from French cœur méchant "spiteful heart". However, no evidence supporting this conjecture was available at the time and none has surfaced since.
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