Saturday, March 04, 2006
But despite its outlandish appearance, there might be a classical forerunner to mulligrubs, defined by A.Word.A.Day as follows:
mulligrubs (MUL-i-grubz) nounI believe that mulliegrums here is a misprint for mulligrums. The Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. mulligrubs, dates its first appearance in English to 1599, but says simply "fanciful formation," with no other derivation. Webster's Dictionary (1913) says "Cf. Prov. E. mull to squeeze, pull about, mulling numb or dull," but the American Heritage Dictionary agrees with A.Word.A.Day in connecting mulligrubs to megrims.1. Grumpiness; colic; low spirits.[From mulliegrums, apparently from megrims (low spirits).]
2. An ill-tempered person.
And megrims itself? That's where the classical connection comes in. The Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. migraine, says:
1373, megrim, from O.Fr. migraigne (13c.), from vulgar pronunciation of L.L. hemicrania "pain in one side of the head, headache," from Gk. hemikrania, from hemi- "half" + kranion "skull." The M.E. form was re-spelled 1777 on Fr. model.So the etymological chain seems to be this:
- Greek hemikrania begat Latin hemicrania.
- Latin hemicrania begat French migraigne.
- French migraigne begat English megrim.
- English megrims begat English mulligrims.
- English mulligrims begat English mulligrubs.
Update: I'm indebted to Mike Webb, who sent via email the Oxford English Dictionary entry on mulligrubs. According to the OED, the origin of the word is uncertain. The first citation, from Thomas Nashe, spells the word mulliegrums, so I was wrong when I said that was a misprint. Here are the OED definitions, without citations:
1. In pl. Now chiefly regional.I can't resist quoting one of the OED's examples, from c1750:a. A state or fit of depression; low spirits. Also: a bad temper or mood. In early use in (in) his (also her, etc.,) mulligrubs.2. A fit or bout of mulligrubs. Obs. rare.
b. Stomach-ache, colic; diarrhoea. In early use in sick of the mulligrubs.
3. A sulky or ill-tempered person. Now Eng. regional.
M. PALMER Dialogue in Devonshire Dial. (1837) 5 A call'd her a purting glum-pot, zed her'd got the mulligrubs.Glum-pot is also a good description of a melancholy person.