Sunday, December 08, 2013
Don’t Worry Be Gruntled
These are tetchy times in the China relations and journalism biz. Instead of being disgruntled and contribute to the acrid fug of rancor, I have resolved to be gruntled.
The OED is not particularly helpful on the issue of “gruntled”. “Gruntled” is identified as a back-formation i.e. a recent modification to a long-standing term, “disgruntled” i.e. "chagrined", which dates back to at least the 17th century. Unsurprisingly, the first usage of “gruntled” the OED records is by the playful English wordsmith P.G. Wodehouse.
Leafing through the OED, the China Matters gloss is this:
The root word is “grunt”, an onomatopoeic representation of the sound coming out of the snout of a snuffling hog.
“Gruntle” is the “grunt-thing” a pig’s snout.
By extension the facial area of the pig.
Applied rather colloquially and impertinently to a person’s face. Contemporary American equivalent “mug”.
First such usage in 1508 with the magnificent The gallowis gapeis efter thy graceless gruntill i.e. You have a mug suited to the gallows.
I infer that “disgruntled” should be understood as an earthy observation that “an unsatisfactory situation has caused an unpleasant expression to distort one’s features” or, as they used to say in polite circles, someone has been put “out of countenance”.
Since most of the human race comes with facial features pre-installed i.e. “gruntled”, there is no “gruntling” going on except in the womb and all one can do after birth is “disgruntle” one’s natural endowment of “gruntle”.
To characterize myself as “gruntled” i.e. having a face, would be somewhat ironic, because I eschew using a personal photo in my on-line profiles.
But since there is a lot of disgruntlement going on, for the time being I’ll try being gruntled. It's worth a shot.