Word of the Day

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

mulligrubs

[ muhl-i-gruhbz ]

noun

Southern U.S. ill temper; grumpiness.

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What is the origin of mulligrubs?

The extravagant spelling variants of mulligrubs, e.g., mulligrums, mouldy-grubs, merlygrubs, muddigrubs, mullygrumps, murdiegrups,… at least show very plainly that mulligrubs has no sound etymology. Mulligrums “low spirits, bad temper, bad mood” first appears at the end of the 16th century. (Some scholars suggest a relationship between mulligrums and the slightly earlier noun megrims “melancholy, low spirits.”) A quarter of a century later, about 1625, mulligrubs meant “stomachache, diarrhea” and a few years later “ill-tempered or surly person.”

how is mulligrubs used?

Ma has a case of the mulligrubs here lately and some of the kinfolks figure it might be caused by reading the papers too much.

Bob Kyle, "Fiddlin' Around," The Tuscaloosa News June 1, 1983

I think when it comes I will enjoy it. It is just the coming that fills me with the mulligrubs.

Winston Graham, The Twisted Sword, 1990
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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Noel

[ noh-el ]

noun

Christmas.

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What is the origin of Noel?

Noel has been in English since the 13th century as a forename and family name (e.g., Nuwel, Nuuel) for those born or baptized on Christmas or during the Christmas season. In the late 14th century, Nowel is used as an exclamation of joy in The Canterbury Tales (this usage remains only in Christmas carols). In the late-14th century alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Nowel meant “Christmas day, the feast of Christmas, Christmastide.” Middle English shows several spellings, e.g., Newel, Nouel, Nowelle, Nowel, all derived from Anglo-French, Middle French, and Old French forms (Nowel, Nowelle, Nouel, Noel), Noël in French. The spellings with o (e.g., Noel) are a variant of spellings with a (e.g., Nael) that began in the 12th century. Nael is a regular French development from Latin nātālis (in full, diēs nātālis “birthday”).

how is Noel used?

… be sure to wish Tops a joyous Noel.

Ron Goulart, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," 1993

… the special season for such innocent gaiety is the Christmastide when they celebrate Noël with a joyous fervour not to be outdone elsewhere.

J. Macdonald Oxley, "Christmas Games in French Canada," The Canadian Magazine, November 1901 to April 1902
Monday, December 24, 2018

heartstrings

[ hahrt-stringz ]

plural noun

the deepest feelings; the strongest affections: to tug at one's heartstrings.

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What is the origin of heartstrings?

The original meaning of heartstrings was physical, or anatomical to be precise. A heartstring was one of the nerves or tendons that supposedly support and brace the heart; heartstrings (the plural) referred to the aorta and pulmonary artery (no longer in scientific use). By the 16th century the heartstrings were conceived as the source of a person’s feelings and emotions. Heartstring in its original anatomical sense entered English in the 15th century.

how is heartstrings used?

Little kids singing and smiling never failed to tug at the heartstrings.

Susan Wiggs, Candlelight Christmas, 2013

There was no choice now, but to bear the pang of whatever heartstrings were snapt asunder, and that illusive torment … by which a past mode of life prolongs itself into the succeeding one.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance, 1852

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