WAS MY FATHER A CURMUDGEON?

WAS MY FATHER A CURMUDGEON? I have just sent a letter in defense of my father to the Times Literary Supplement. My father often happily referred to himself as “the Old Curmudgeon” when he was taking a contrarian position in a dinner table conversation. Here is an excerpt from my letter:

Your cross talk column for January 22 describes the interviewer Valerie Grove as triumphing over Kingsley Amis. She claimed “curmudgeon” meant “skinflint”, and Amis insisted the word meant “cantankerous, irritable.” Your column describes Ms. Grove as consulting the dictionary and that the dictionary proved her right. Your column concludes by referring to Amis as “cantankerous (not curmudgeonly).” Anatoly Liberman at the Oxford Etymologist says that British usage and American usage differ: ” A British curmudgeon is preeminently a miser.” In America, a curmudgeon is preeminently cantankerous. But both meanings go back to Samuel Johnson’s definition of a curmudgeon as an “avaricious churlish fellow.” Both Amis and my father were proud of being “churlish” or “cantankerous.”

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2 Responses to WAS MY FATHER A CURMUDGEON?

  1. Dick Weisfelder says:

    My dictionary (Websters) says “surly, ill-mannered, bad-tempered” and cantankerous. No mention of “skinflint”

    I’m curmudgeonly (according to my wife) and proud of it too! I would have liked your father!

  2. Pingback: VINDICATION FOR MY FATHER. | Pater Familias

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