This morning, making coffee, we got into a spat—a trivial thing but one of those moments that happen over the course of sixty-two years, when you just can’t let go, when words elicit a reply that elicits more words, and on and on, like a hot potato you can’t let drop. Sometimes its very triviality makes it all the more toxic: what fools we, to be stuck on this merry-go-round.
It ground to a halt, both a bit pissed and wanting to drink our coffee, and then Elizabeth said, “Could we dis-gruntle now?”
Then followed a dialogue on the oddity of disgruntlement as an active verb: to disgruntle. During the course of which, we dis-gruntled.
I’m not one to believe that to believe that conscious changes in language change anything—that’s a disgruntlement for another time. But in the case of disgruntlement/disgruntle I could make an exception, at least on a personal level. The former is a static state, anchored in a solid, two-ton -MENT. The latter is active, implying though not stating a direct object: ourselves or me. It suggests change.
What would our marriages or our politics be without disgruntlement as a fixed entity? Both sides of the growing fence: we vote for the cat who appeals to it: he/she best channels my anger—no, not anger, that implies being out of control, and most of us want to sit down to dinner. We call it outrage, fervor, commitment to a righteous cause, but most of us don’t go out on the street with guns.
Call it whatever, rage is a great first stage as a booster rocket, but it won’t get you all the way to the Moon.
A more accurate term would be disgruntlement, and I feel it would be an improvement—whether on the national scene or in the kitchen—for more of us to dis-gruntle. Though granted, this might prove a formidable sacrifice for those of us who like to grunt.
The backwards logic of the term disgruntled has always bothered me. I would think that a state of mild annoyment would be gruntled, and the resolution of it would be dis-grntled, n’est ce pas?
On another hand, in my birth family we had a term for #1, peeing and a term for #2: Gruntung! So perhaps disgruntled would be after the defecation, a state of cleanliness?
Odd language we have here.