After I did “getting your ducks in a row” last Wednesday, a friend suggested a few more bird words. I’ll do two today. The first one is “grousing.”
Grousing: To grumble or complain, (beef, bellyache, bitch, crab, gripe, holler, squawk)
Also, to hunt a popular game bird known as a grouse. The word arose in the 1530s as “grows” and may be from Latin or Welsh. Originally the moorhen of the British Isles; later the name was extended to similar birds in other places.
The use of “grouse” to mean “complain” arose later, around 1885, as British Army slang, of uncertain origin. The OED notes “a curious resemblance” to Normandy French dialectal “groucer,” from Old French groucier, “to murmur, grumble, complain.”
From WWI, the song “Raining and Grousing”:
Raining, raining, raining, Always bloody well raining.
Raining all the morning, And raining all the night.
(That certainly sounds like the West Coast in November!)
Grousing, grousing, grousing, Always bloody well grousing.
Grousing at the rations, And grousing at the pay.
The second word is “pigeonhole.”
— A nook in a desk for holding papers.
— One of an array of compartments for sorting mail or messages.
— A hole, or roosting place for pigeons.
— Ancient Roman system of storage, used in libraries for keeping scrolls.
— A neat category which usually fails to reflect actual complexities.
Originally, “pigeonhole,” which has been around since at least 1577, had only the first four, literal meanings. The fifth meaning, first recorded in 1864, and the one most often heard today, is a “narrow, sometimes oversimplified category.” Used as a verb, it’s the act of placing someone in such a category (in the theater, it’s also called type casting).
Common failings of pigeonholing schemes include:
— Categories are poorly defined.
— Entities may belong to more than one category.
— Entities may not fit into any available category.
— Entities may change, and no longer fit the category.
I think most of us resent being pigeonholed. We are, after all, complex beings. I spend most of my time writing and researching, but I do a lot of other things, too. And the slot I will fit for the next hour is “shopper” because I’m about to go buy the Sunday paper and a week’s worth of groceries.