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On Curmudgeonry:

I and a colleague at The Art Institute of Colorado, were boasting to an associate one day about our cultivated curmudgeonry.  Some discussion of the word "curmudgeon" followed, and I was inspired to consult several dictionaries. (One is seldom sufficient.)

cur·mudg·eon (k.r-m¾j".n) n. An ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions. --cur·mudg"eon·ly adj. --cur·mudg"eon·ry n.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition; 1992

an irascible, churlish person;
The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The Unabridged Edition; 1967

a surly, ill-mannered, bad-tempered person; cantankerous fellow;
Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language; 1978

[perh. From medieval name Curmegan, perh. Equivalent to FR. Coeur méchant, evil heart] an avaricious, churlish fellow; a miser; a cantankerous fellow.
Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary; Second Edition; 1983

A fascinating lexicographic journey through the world of curmudgeonry (which is shown as a legitimate form, along with "curmudgeonly," in at least one of my dictionaries): 

What a wealth of adjectives applies to this state! Only one phrase is repeated in these four definitions. Only one dictionary took a stab at the derivation, and it is a generally poor dictionary; I seldom find it helpful.

 Note that most of the definitions are gender-neutral, but the word "fellow" appears three times. The Random House , probably the best reputed of these books says "person." It specifically says the derivation is unknown.

 Certainly I have some stubborn notions, and I suppose I'm a bit cantankerous, but I really don't think I'm surly or ill-tempered.  I've always attached a sense of intellectualism, or perhaps sophistication to the word, making a curmudgeon distinct from a simple low-class grouch. None of these lexicographers agrees with me.


Copyright © 1997 J. C. Adamson

copyright © 2010, J. C. Adamson