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Tuesday 13 November 2012

Thing To Not Do Today: be churlish.

They say that people are getting ruder all the time (though of course the people who say that are all really old people, who complain all the time anyway) but it's a long time since anyone's called me a churl.

In fact, I'm not sure that anyone ever has.

A churl is a surly, ill-bred person (though you can be churlish even if you're quite high-up, like a Prime Minister or a President. Dukes in particular are noted for their churlishness. They have been  known to addressing even their boiled eggs with a sneer.)

Long ago a churl was a ceorl, who was the lowest sort of free man in Anglo-Saxon England. Later a churl became a term for a farm labourer (and who wouldn't be a bit grumpy when faced with digging up a whole strip of turnips? Let's face it, I'm not all that cheerful at the moment, and all I have to do is rake the lawn.).

Even if you're neither bad-tempered, a peasant, nor an Anglo-Saxon, it's still possible to be churlish in its sense of being miserly. That sort of churl is the sort of person who avoids eye-contact with people who have collecting boxes, uses his tea-bags more than twice, and always claims his sweets have all been dropped on the toilet floor.

Thing Not To Do Today: be churlish. This word comes from the Old English ceorl and is related to the Old Norse karl and the Greek gerōn, which means old man.
So there we are: that proves that people get grumpier as they get older, doesn't it.

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