Short note on grungy

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 6 04:09:33 UTC 2011

As a follow-up to "scuzzy", I thought, I'd look up "grungy". OED has
only one definition (as also for "grunge") and dates it from 1965. [Both
grunge and grungy antedated by a matter of months--if not days.]

Grungy, adj.
> Etymology:  Apparently arbitrary formation, after grubby , dingy ,
> etc.: compare grunge n. and gungy adj.
> slang (chiefly N. Amer.).
>   Grimy, dirty; hence, of poor quality, unappealing; unpleasant, bad;
> untidy.
> 1965    N.Y. Times 15 Jan. 41/2   Liquor flows freely, jokes are the
> 'grungiest', fun and games abound.

Grunge, n.
> U.S. slang.
>   A general term of disparagement for someone or something that is
> repugnant or odious, unpleasant, or dull; also, dirt, grime. Also attrib./
> /1965    N.Y. Times 27 Dec. 20/7   A difficult date is an 'octopus', a
> dull one a 'grunge' and an untidy one a 'dip' or a 'spook'./
> /

Not so turn-of-the-century slang and dialect dictionaries.
The Existing Phonology of English Dialects. [Date not clear, but
certainly 19th century UK from the font, but later than 1879.]
D39 = m.NL. = mid North Lowland = Dr. Murray's /Moray and Aberdeen/. p.
> 24. /arm/, Jamieson cites "/gardy/, the arm," from Douglas,--/deep
> revengeful feeling/, the nearest word to /grungy/ in Jamieson is
> "/grunye/, promontory, mouth ludicrously, a grunt."

The number corresponds to the passage in "Cromár Examples" (Scotland) on
p. 775, phonetically transcribed. I am not sure why "grungy" is
mentioned when the word in the text appears to be closer to "grudge".
But that's just what is meant here.
The English Dialect Dictionary, Being the Complete Vocabulary of All
Dialect Words Still in Use, or Known to Have Been in Use During the Last
Two Hundred Years. Volume 2: D-G. Edited by Joseph Wright. English
Dialect Society/OUP/G.P. Putnam's Sons, NY: 1900
p. 749/2
> GRUN(E, GRUNGE, see Groan, Groin, sb.1, Grounch, Grunch
> GRUNGY, sb.1 Sc. A deep revengeful feeling, a grudge.
p. 750/1
> GRUNGY, sb.2 Wor. A 'nisgal' or 'underling,' the smallest of a brood
> of poultry.
> Used originally of the smallest pig in a litter (H.K.).

["Grunch", above, is the grinding of teeth or the sound made in grinding
of teeth (esp. while chewing).]

None of these correspond to the 1960s "grunge/y", although the semantic
distance may be closest for the pig/poultry runt. It's only ironic that
"grunge" (meaning "noise") was the original reference to "Seattle rock".
But, no, I don't think any of these are in any way related.

Still, worth a mention, perhaps.

A couple of "grungy" in 1965. Obviously not earlier than January 1965 NYT.
Senior scholastic, Volume 87, Issue 9. 1965
p. 3
> Q. By the end of the day at school I feel positively grungy: What can
> I do to feel fresh again for my after-School job?
The sterile cuckoo. By John Treadwell Nichols. 1965 [link is to 1996
reprint edition]
Chapter Three. p. 72
> But as luck would have it, Pookie's sudden taboo on filth only served
> to bring it on in droves. It was curious how we stood in a line,
> looking down into the river, recounting some of the grungiest jokes
> known to mankind, each in his own turn, including the girls,
> laughing--laughing until we were scattered in various flung positions,
> gasping for breath, whooping and screaming while--once again for we
> boys--tears ran down our faces, and the girls, though red as beets,
> were laughing with us, all except Nancy Putnam who smiled and was
> bewildered by it all.
Broadcasting. March 22, 1965 [date visible on page]
p. 160/3 [page number visible on page]
> KOL admits its location is muddy Instead of trying to conceal its
> location on the Seattle mudflats, in what it admits is "one of the
> grungiest industrial areas on the West Coast," KOL Seattle has made
> its home grounds the basis of an all-out audience promotion.

Still, I'm willing to bet that the Sterile Cuckoo antedates the NYT
material--because that "material" is the review of the very same book.
Checking the archives, it turns out the piece is titled "Life With
Pookie, Life Without".

But it should be easy to antedate the December 1965 NYT for
"grunge"--should a 1965 citation be found. And we have one--with several
hits in it!

It includes "junior grunge", "grunge pancakes" recipe (for a moldy
pancake mix), "main dish grunge" (recipe that incorporates Spam) and "a
pot of grunge".

Another random NYT hit from 1965:

College Girls Vote the Conservative Ticket -- in Fashion
New York Times - Aug 4, 1965 [PQ paywall]
> But the return to the nineteen-twenties in fashion generally is
> "scuzzy" or " chick" or "grungy," meaning terrible, or "colorful,"
> which means silly a ...

It does not antedate "grungy", but note "scuzzy".


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