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In a conversation last month, the subject of curmudgeonhood came up. There were some advocates of a minimum age restriction that would start somewhere around fifty. In short, their view was that curmudgeonhood was earned through experience.
My dictionary’s* definition of curmudgeon is: “A surly, ill-mannered, bad-tempered person; cantankerous fellow.”
Alright, given that definition, maybe curmudgeonhood is nothing to aspire to, but I also notice that there is no age limit given or implied. I’ve known two-year-olds who qualify. Actually, I suspect almost all two-year-olds qualify by that definition.
Of course, not every working definition of a word is the same as the published definition. Many think more of a lovable curmudgeon: a crabby, older person who shouts, “Get off my lawn.” The sort of person Clint Eastwood has morphed into playing as he has aged.
Another factor in curmudgeonhood as the cultural working definition exists is intelligence. I have not been able to find it after extensive searches, but my memory tells me there was a scientific article a few years back that showed that curmudgeons were often more intelligent than their peers. The curmudgeon sees someone proposing this “great new idea,” and says, “It’s been tried before many times, and failed every time.” This takes some combination of intelligence and experience, but would the lower age limit, if any, be different for someone with an average IQ vs. someone who was outside the 95% normal? What about for someone whose IQ was way off the scale? Would he be able to come to curmudgeonhood at a younger age? Would it be different for those who gained knowledge of human nature via reading history or in other vicarious ways rather than those who have gained their experience through suffering the slings and arrows of being around normal humans?
So, what do you think, Ricochetois? What is a curmudgeon? Are there age limits? Are curmudgeons born or made? If made, what creates a curmudgeon?
* Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language Second Edition (1980)