Limits to Curmudgeonhood?

 

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)

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  1. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    Whenever a late bloomer joins the curmudgeon ranks, we send over a platter of sour grapes and cold shoulder of lamb.

    • #31
  2. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    J Flei:I became a grouchy old man at about 17. When the OJ Simpson not guilty verdict came down, I was in high school, and that somehow catapulted me into becoming a cantankerous cynic.

    I don’t know why losing your faith in the justice system would do that. I hear O.J. is still looking for the killers.

    • #32
  3. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Gary McVey:Whenever a late bloomer joins the curmudgeon ranks, we send over a platter of sour grapes and cold shoulder of lamb.

    And the check.

    • #33
  4. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    skipsul:

    Gary McVey:Whenever a late bloomer joins the curmudgeon ranks, we send over a platter of sour grapes and cold shoulder of lamb.

    And the check.

    This brings up another question: Are all curmudgeons funny? Does it go with the intelligence of those who became curmudgeons young?

    • #34
  5. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I’ve always thought of a curmudgeon as an older man who is gruff or grumpy, has strong views that are usually traditional and usually right, and has little patience for disagreement, especially from anyone substantially younger.  Whippersnapper is an antonym (and one that a curmudgeon might particularly like to use).

    Maybe it’s just because I’m a conservative, but I generally think of curmudgeon as a term of affection.

    My usage is somewhat supported by a number of online definitions, but not perfectly:

    • Wiktionary: “An ill-tempered (and frequently old) person full of stubborn ideas or opinions.”
    • Macmillan: “Someone who gets annoyed easily, especially an old person.”
    • Cambridge online: “An old person who is often in a bad mood.”
    • Merriam-Webster: “A crusty, ill-tempered and usually old man.”
    • Thefreedictionary.com:  “A crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas.”
    • #35
  6. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    So, do we have any female curmudgeons around here?

    • #36
  7. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Arizona Patriot:

    • Macmillan: “Someone who gets annoyed easily, especially an old person.”
    • Cambridge online: “An old person who is often in a bad mood.”

    You went and edited it after the first time, didn’t you?

    WordPress’ artificial stupidity really pegs my curmudgeon meter to the max.

    • #37
  8. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    When I turned 50 (10 years ago), one of my best friends said to me, “Great. Now you finally have an excuse to behave the way you’ve always behaved.”

    I don’t claim to a curmudgeon so much as I claim to be a realist. A grumpy realist.

    • #38
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Songwriter: I don’t claim to a curmudgeon so much as I claim to be a realist. A grumpy realist.

    Same t’ing!

    • #39
  10. Palaeologus Inactive
    Palaeologus
    @Palaeologus

    My wife likes to say I was “born old.”

    But she wasn’t even alive yet when I was born, so what would she know about it?

    • #40
  11. doulalady Member
    doulalady
    @doulalady

    I was turned into a curmudgeon by my oldest child and his curmudgeonly fights with his high school teachers.

    • #41
  12. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    doulalady:I was turned into a curmudgeon by my oldest child and his curmudgeonly fights with his high school teachers.

    Is that sort of like, “Insanity is hereditary, you inherit it from your children?”

    • #42
  13. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @CalvinCoolidg

    If you own a hat collection in your garage that hangs on their own individual “special” hooks that contains 20 or more logos on them that no one has ever seen before, except for your wife and dead friends- You’re Curmudgeon. And you earned it.

    • #43
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Calvin Coolidg:If you own a hat collection in your garage that hangs on their own individual “special” hooks that contains 20 or more logos on them that no one has ever seen before, except for your wife and dead friends- You’re Curmudgeon. And you earned it.

    My hats don’t have logos.

    smalltoad

    But  I might have that many.

    • #44
  15. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Personally, I’m striving for curmudgeonhood at 48.  Think I probably got a year or three left before I get there.  But still, I’m getting pretty close.

    To my mind, a curmudgeon is someone that done did it, re-did it then did it again.  And did it/done did it at a significant cost of blood, sweat, and tears.  Then the curmudgeon-to-be re-applied the lessons learned from those experiences, and achieved some measure of success.

    Then (and here’s the key to curmudgeon, as opposed to skeptic, doubter, iconoclast, etc) the curmudgeon-to-be offered to one and all the (probably small, but definitely important) lessons learned that he had paid so dear a price to glean.

    And no one listened.  And no one listened.  And no one really seemed to care.

    So, the curmudgeon reaches full bloom.  He’s done explaining, arguing, and explicating.  He’s going to throw out what he knows–and not sugar coat it.  And he’s kinda/sorta lost interest in whether those who hear the wisdom he casts before them understand or appreciate it.

    So, I do think the status of “curmudgeon” can only come with age.   And disappointment.

    • #45
  16. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @OldGoatWasatch

    roho          What turned you into a curmudgeon?

    slowmo    Walter Cronkite.

    roho         He was a who not a what.

    slowmo    No kidding?  I thought Old Iron Pants was a komodo dragon.

    • #46
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Boss Mongo: And no one listened. And no one listened. And no one really seemed to care.

    I like your choice of video to exemplify it.

    • #47
  18. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    Boss Mongo’s mini-essay is flinty and true. A curmudgeon in an arid land doesn’t spend precious saltwater tears crying over the memory of once-verdant meadow, of the faithlessness of unenforceable water treaties that meant nothing, and the slow, sad but tiresome departure of the masses of people who couldn’t adapt. Long after they’re gone, the curmudgeon hangs on.

    • #48
  19. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Gary McVey:Boss Mongo’s mini-essay is flinty and true. A curmudgeon in an arid land doesn’t spend precious saltwater tears crying over the memory of once-verdant meadow, of the faithlessness of unenforceable water treaties that meant nothing, and the slow, sad but tiresome departure of the masses of people who couldn’t adapt. Long after they’re gone, the curmudgeon hangs on.

    Make no mistake: at some point I’ll steal most of what you said, here.  Too good not to cop.

    • #49
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Boss Mongo:

    Gary McVey:Boss Mongo’s mini-essay is flinty and true. A curmudgeon in an arid land doesn’t spend precious saltwater tears crying over the memory of once-verdant meadow, of the faithlessness of unenforceable water treaties that meant nothing, and the slow, sad but tiresome departure of the masses of people who couldn’t adapt. Long after they’re gone, the curmudgeon hangs on.

    Make no mistake: at some point I’ll steal most of what you said, here. Too good not to cop.

    Gary has a high eloquence rarely found.

    • #50
  21. user_1085809 Member
    user_1085809
    @SeanHackbarth

    To me a curmudgeon is a critic with less tact. Age has little to do with it. I’ve been a curmudgeon since I was 25.

    • #51
  22. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    I used to state my life goal as “become a grumpy old man before my time.” I’ve been working on it since I was about 17 and for a government class assignment I created the SNAKE (Say Nothing and Kill Everything) political party. My platform took the unpopular side of every issue of the day and my teacher sat in awe as I argued down the entire class. I pissed off the preppies, the stoners, the nerds, the jocks (and their cheerleader groupies), and even the “Camaro chicks,” but I also had each group cheering as I took on the pet outrage of the other groups. It was sheer sophistic delight.

    • #52
  23. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    The King Prawn:I used to state my life goal as “become a grumpy old man before my time.” I’ve been working on it since I was about 17 and for a government class assignment I created the SNAKE (Say Nothing and Kill Everything) political party. My platform took the unpopular side of every issue of the day and my teacher sat in awe as I argued down the entire class. I pissed off the preppies, the stoners, the nerds, the jocks (and their cheerleader groupies), and even the “Camaro chicks,” but I also had each group cheering as I took on the pet outrage of the other groups. It was sheer sophistic delight.

    What does it cost to join this party?

    • #53
  24. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    One becomes a curmudgeon on the same day one learns that simply being right doesn’t make a lick of difference.

    • #54
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Misthiocracy:One becomes a curmudgeon on the same day one learns that simply being right doesn’t make a lick of difference.

    Best explanation, yet. And it would account for the wide disparity in age differences when coming into one’s curmudgeonhood.

    • #55
  26. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    It’s also tempting to be that happy old man who causes no offense when he occasionally forgets to don pants before going out. A coin toss, really.

    • #56
  27. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The King Prawn:It’s also tempting to be that happy old man who causes no offense when he occasionally forgets to don pants before going out. A coin toss, really.

    I can’t remember which Socratic Dialogue it’s from, but I remember a passage where an old man said he was really happy to finally be old enough that he doesn’t have to waste his time and energy on thinking about getting laid.

    That passage really spoke to me, man.

    • #57
  28. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Misthiocracy

    One becomes a curmudgeon on the same day one learns that simply being right doesn’t make a lick of difference.

    One could also point to this as the moment where a bad marriage ends or a good marriage begins, depending on how he uses the information.

    • #58
  29. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    If this were real it would be the official curmudgeon vehicle of choice:

    V5qYiSk

    • #59
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    The King Prawn:If this were real it would be the official curmudgeon vehicle of choice:

    V5qYiSk

    Why is that? I think a lot of curmudgeons would like pick-up trucks. We also have some female curmudgeons. (Of course, they might like that car.)

    • #60
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