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WHY WAS I UNAWARE OF THE FACT THAT “DISGRUNTLED” IS, IN FACT, THE OPPOSITE OF “GRUNTLED”
WHY DOES NOBODY USE THIS WORD
I’m very gruntled by this post.
i feel like this is a good time to bring up
Fun fact: “gruntled” and “whelm” are actually the opposite in terms of linguistic development! Here’s how: the more familiar word, “overwhelm,” was formed by adding an affix (“over-“, of course) to an existing verb, “whelm.” It was just a funny coincidence that the original verb then fell out of common usage, leaving most speakers with “overwhelm” all on its own.
Meanwhile, “gruntled” is an example of something called a backformation. We had an adjective, “disgruntled,” from the verb “disgruntle.” It looked like something you could take an affix off of (people essentially look at “disgruntled” and make the intuitive assumption that the affix “dis-” must be removable). As a result, speakers formed the adjective “gruntled” from the adjective “disgruntled,” rather than vice versa!
(BONUS FUN FACT: If you look farther back in time, there is actually an obsolete verb “gruntle,” from which “disgruntle” was formed. But you’ll find that its meaning has no connection to the new adjective “gruntled!” This old verb actually meant something like “to grumble” or “to complain.” Changing it to “disgruntle” by adding that “dis-” affix turned it into a causative: “to cause somebody to grumble/complain.” Then, as with “whelm,” we lost the original verb, which paved the way for the backformation described above.)
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