Wacky Word Wednesday

Mulligrubs – Wacky Word Wednesday

Ever have one of those drag-your-feet, head-splitting, rain-cloud-over-your-head days? Well, cheer up, chap! You’re just in time for Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world!

Today’s wacky word definition from TermWiki.com:

quo top

mul·li·grubs

[muhl-i-grhbz]

-noun

sullen or sulky behavior; colic; grumpiness

quo botMulligrubs

Most research suggests mulligrubs originated in the southern U.S., derived from megrim, which emerged sometime in the fourteenth century. In its singular form, megrim means dizziness, vertigo, or migraine; the plural form (megrims) takes on the meaning low spirits. The definition for mulligrubs would later be expanded to include a stomachache or colic.

Over the years, mulligrubs has slowly dissipated in the U.S., but Australia seems to have embraced this word in rather odd ways. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, the television show Mulligrubs was on-air, the target audience being preschoolers. This show was infamously known for the occasional appearance of a blue face that would occupy the whole screen so that all that was in view were basic facial features (eyebrows, eyes, nose and a mouth). The blue face would have no depth, remaining on screen in a flat two-dimensional form. A Facebook page has dubbed Mulligrubs “the scariest on early 90s TV”. In addition to this, Australia is also home to Mulligrubs Playcentre & Café, which is puzzling and curious given both the original and modern definition of the word.

Perhaps the answer to Australia’s interesting relationship with mulligrubs can be understood through one of its psychologists, Joe Forgas. One of the studies Forgas conducted demonstrated how moods affect thought processes. In Forgas’s words: “Whereas positive mood seems to promote creativity, flexibility, co-operation and reliance on mental shortcuts, negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world.” Forgas has also experimented with the impact of weather on memory. His conclusion? Cloudy, dreary days enhance memory skills, while sunny days cause people to be more forgetful. So maybe that rain cloud over your head is not such a bad thing after all…

And to finish, we reached back in history to provide you with some literary and historical examples of mulligrubs:

  • Idleness lies in bed sick of the mulligrubs where industry finds health and wealth. (Brave Men and Women by O.E. Fuller)
  • ‘Tis the maddest trick a man can ever play in his whole life, to let his breath sneak out of his body without any more ado, and without so much as a rap o’er the pate, or a kick of the guts; to go out like the snuff of a farthing candle, and die merely of the mulligrubs, or the sullens. (Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes)
  • As for myself, while I have scarce stirred to take exercise for four or five days, no wonder I had the mulligrubs. (The Journal of Sir Walter Scott by Sir Walter Scott).

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