disgruntled, disgusted and disappointed

Do you feel disgruntled, disgusted and disappointed? Well, what happened to your gruntle, gust and appointment? “Disgruntled,” “disgusted “and “disappointed” sound like lonely negatives that have lost their positive forms.

The English word “disgust” comes from the French desgouster or Italian disgustare ‘distaste,’ which derive from the negative prefix dis- +French gouster (modern French goûter), Italian gustare from Latin gustāre to taste. English, beginning around 1600, adopted only the negative version, leaving us without the useful expression, *”That gusts me.”

“Disappointed” originally meant just that: ‘to undo the appointment of; to deprive of an appointment, office, or possession; to dispossess, deprive.’ It was used that way in 1489, but by 1513, it was stretched to its present meaning: ‘to frustrate the expectation or desire of (a person).’

On the other hand, the prefix “dis-“ in “disgruntled” is not used as a negative, but an intensifier. If you’re disgruntled you’re extremely gruntled. And what, pray tell, does it mean to be gruntled? “Gruntle” was a diminutive of “grunt,” dating from around 1400, meaning ‘to utter a little or low grunt.’ It was said of animals, especially swine, but rarely of people. Later it came to mean ‘to grumble or complain.’ Arthur Dent in The plaine mans path-way to heaven (1601) wrote, “He cannot endure that wee should gruntle against him with stubborne sullennesse.” It seems that the gruntled should be the one complained about rather than the complainer, but somehow the roles were switched.

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