Printable Version
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.

Dr. Goodword,

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