Last month we took a look at six words meaning to complain, but we English-speaking folk are not fenced in by a mere six ways of complaining. Here are a few more.
From Old Norse we get the word carp, to complain or find fault with. In Old Norse it meant to brag. Nobody’s sure about its source before that. Etymologists believe that as carp made its way into English the Old Norse word shook hands with the Latin word carpere, to slander or revile, & became the English verb carp. All this happened in the 1200s. Though one might think the complaining carp might be related to the fishy carp, there is no relationship. The word for the fish probably came from Gothic through a Germanic language, then through Vulgar Latin & Old French to land in English in the 1300s, just in time to allow our linguistic ancestors to carp about carp.
And then there’s gripe. The verb gripe came to English about 1200. It originally meant to clutch or seize firmly & came from an Old English word meaning to grasp at or attack. The to complain meaning of gripe didn’t come to English until 1932,
The verb grumble came to English in the 1580s meaning to complain in a low voice. It may have come from a Middle French word meaning to mutter between the teeth or from a Middle Dutch word meaning to murmur, mutter, or grunt.
In 1885 the verb grouse showed up in English, meaning to complain. It came from British Army slang. It’s not clear where those British soldiers picked it up, but there happens to be an Old French word meaning to murmur, grumble, or complain: groucier.
That Old French word that may have been the source of grouse was definitely the source of another way to complain, grutch. Grutch showed up in the English in the 1200s.
The word snivel, to complain or whine tearfully, appeared in English in the 1600s. Its Old English source, snyflan, meant to run at the nose. Interestingly, the Middle English used the related noun snivelard to refer to one who weeps, cries or whines.
So many ways to complain! Please register your complaints or comments in the comments section.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster & the OED
Humbug & countless words in the language come from who-knows-where. And it seems many of them have to do with the actions of difficult people. Here are a few words that fit in both categories.
Humbug, meaning trick, jest, hoax or deception, appeared in English in the 1750s & became instantly popular – nearly as popular as the numerous wild theories as to humbug’s origin. It continues to vex etymologists, as the puzzle remains unanswered, though speculation has been going on since the word’s arrival in the language,
The verb, to carp, entered English in the early 1200s probably from an Old Norse word meaning to brag. Though its present meaning may have been influenced centuries ago by the Latin word carpere, to slander, this hasn’t been proven just yet, so our modern verb carp is officially of unknown origin.
Another verb to crab, meaning to vex or irritate, showed up in English in the 1400s. Though it may have its roots in the Swedish word scrab, meaning bad-tempered, the origin of scrab is a mystery to etymologists.
The verb, to beef, showed up in the 1880s, meaning to complain, from the noun beef, meaning a complaint, which appeared in that same decade. Though the hypothesis has been floated that both these meanings stem from soldiers lodging complaints about the quality of the beef they were served, it remains a hypothesis, & nobody knows for sure.
Tantrum entered the language in 1714. Its source is almost universally considered unknown, though a contributor at English Language & Usage suggests possible connections to the prankish capering involved in something called the tarantula dance. This same contributor also dug up a 1675 usage (not recognized in most etymological sources) in which tantrum clearly refers to the male organ. All this goes to prove that day and night, hard-working etymologists are mining the circuitous & oddly fascinating depths of word history.
What other words do we use to describe the actions or nature of difficult people? Leave some suggestions in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources the OED, English Language & Usage, & Etymonline.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.