curmudgeon
Posted: 29 May 2016 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]
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From OED:

Etymology: Derivation unknown.
The occurrence in Holland’s Livy, 1600, of cornmudgin n. (q.v.) has led to a suggestion that this was the original form, with the meaning ‘concealer or hoarder of corn’, mudgin being associated with Middle English much-en, mich-en to pilfer, steal, or muchier, Norman form of Old French mucier, musser to conceal, hide away. But examination of the evidence shows that curmudgeon was in use a quarter of a century before Holland’s date, and that cornmudgin is apparently merely a nonce-word of Holland’s, a play upon corn and curmudgeon. The suggestion that the first syllable is cur, the dog, is perhaps worthy of note; but that of Dr. Johnson’s ‘unknown correspondent’, cœur méchant for French méchant cœur, ‘evil or malicious heart’, is noticeable only as an ingenious specimen of pre-scientific ‘etymology’, and as having been retailed by Ash in the form, ‘from the French cœur unknown, and mechant a correspondent’!

Can anyone throw more light on the etymology?

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Posted: 30 May 2016 03:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Anatoly Liberman gives an extensive write up of the word in his Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology (2008), but unfortunately it’s in his usual style of listing all the false etymologies first and discussing what he considers the correct etymology in several different places throughout, making his logic difficult to follow.

In short, he plumps for a Gaelic etymology, from muigean, “a churlish, disagreeable person,” plus car-, literally meaning “twist, bend” but when used as a prefix can have an intensifying effect, the Gaelic equivalent of the Latin dis- (see OED, curfuffle, v.).

Liberman’s conclusion, which he labels “likely,” seems more plausible than the others that have been proffered.

Curmudgeon is on the Big List, but I need to update it with Liberman’s conclusion.

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Posted: 30 May 2016 09:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks, Dave. I’ve posted more in the Meta thread.

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Posted: 01 June 2016 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’ve updated the Big List entry.

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