The disconnect over dis: It’s great to be gruntled, but bad to be cussed

If you’ve ever felt disgruntled, have you also felt gruntled?

It turns out that you probably have.

“Gruntle,” much to my gruntlement, is actually a word that means, “to put in a good humor,” according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary and “happy or contented,” according to

Looking around the internet thing, there are several websites that attempt to explain the long history of gruntled and disgruntled, but frankly I can’t follow along without getting distracted. But if I could follow along, would that mean I was tracted?

According to Merriam Webster (whose brother Mike used to play for the Steelers), “tracted” is not a word, although “tract” is and it has many definitions.

It can be an extent of time, an area of land or a system of body parts (digestive tract, for example). None of the meanings seem to fit with distract, though, which made me feel disappointed.

If it had made sense, would I have then felt appointed? It’s all very disorienting.

Merriam Webster says that if you are using “dis” as a prefix in a word, it basically means to do the opposite of. With most dis words, it seems like there is a solid root word that makes sense.

Things can appear and disappear, food can be tasteful and distasteful, and you may find my writing agreeable or disagreeable (although the latter is highly dislikely, which is not a word, unlike dislike and dislikeable).

But what about all of the words that don’t seem to be words without the prefix? How can we discriminate which are disallowed?

Thanks to the world’s distinct love of the game “Scrabble,” it’s easy to discover displayable distinguished lists of words that begin with “dis,” to use in this dissection. Words like disgraceful, dishonor, discontent, disagree, disappear, disassemble, disillusion and disobey all make sense, and the list goes on and on with no discernible ending.

But what about disgusting, discreet, dismantle, disparage, dispute, discuss and disco? They, and a disproportionate number of others don’t seem to have related words, or do they? It’s quite a discourse.

Here are a few answers:

Disgust – Gust actually means the sensation of taste or keen delight, according to Merriam Webster, although it also says the use of this meaning is obsolete (probably due to disinterest). It is apparently from Middle English (from Middle Earth?), so it is not used often unless you are a Middle English person.

Gust is most often known by Middle Americans as a burst of wind or a sudden outburst. This makes sense when you hear it, but it also brings up new discussions.

If weather forecasters call for winds to be gusting, why don’t they say that a still day is disgusting? Similarly, if something tastes terrible, we say it is disgusting, but if it tastes great, why don’t we ever say it is gusting?

Mantle – According to Merriam Webster, mantle can be a loose piece of clothing, the part of the earth’s interior beneath the crust but above the core, something that covers or wraps, or the position of someone in authority. I think of dismantle meaning to take something apart (like disassemble), but our friends at Merriam Webster say that one official meaning is to strip of dress or covering, which seems to be the opposite of one of the definitions of mantle, so I guess English is right and I am wrong again.

I hope you are not too disillusioned.

Pute – According to Merriam Webster, pute has an older meaning of pure or unadulterated.

Dispute means to show that something is not correct or legal, and it also means to argue or fight. So I suppose that if someone thinks something is not pure, he or she thinks it is incorrect, so it is a dispute and it makes some sense. I can’t disagree.

Parage – This word means equality of condition, blood or dignity, so it makes sense that if you disparage someone you would say that person is below your dignity. If you do parage someone, then maybe that person’s anxiety will dissolve and he or she will no longer feel disconcerted or disregarded.

Ease – This is an interesting one I never really thought about. If you feel at ease, you feel comfortable, normal and good, but if you have disease you have a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally. It’s a definition I can’t disprove.

Cussed  – This doesn’t seem to make much sense. The meanings I found all have cuss referring to swear words. I am sure many discussions use swear words, so this meaning for now will remain undiscovered.

Creet – Cussed was a tougher one to find much on, but says the Old English definition of creet was lacking judgment, concern for privacy or confidentiality, or for another person’s feelings. This makes sense. What does not make sense, though, is that the word creet is now being used as a slang term for the word discreet.

And to be even more confusing, you also have the word discrete, which is an adjective used to designate the separateness of things, or to designate something as a whole. It is apparently used in mathematics and was created just to confuse us.

Crete, meanwhile, refers to a Greek island, which I can’t try to explain without making my readers feel too disaffected or disengaged.

Disco – Finally, disco is described by Merriam Webster as a popular type of dance music, which is obviously incorrect because it never seemed all that popular. It makes sense to me that the word “co” could stand for country music, as disco seems to be the opposite of country. I doubt anyone would dissent.

So where does all of this leave us? It makes me feel a little disenchanted and dissatisfied with the English language. Dis should have a clear meaning in words, but instead the use of it seems disjointed, disheveled and discombobulated. I personally don’t think it will ever be fully combobulated.

I suppose the only sensible decision is that for now I should dispense of this disarticulate and disastrous dissertation before too many of you disapprove, disagree or feel disenfranchised. After all, I don’t want you to distrust my future disquisitions because you feel dissed.


Please feel free to add any dissenting opinions below. Thanks

2 thoughts on “The disconnect over dis: It’s great to be gruntled, but bad to be cussed

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