stunkard

Some days lately it’s almost impossible not, by the end of the day, to be stunkard. However bright and chirpy you may arise in the donzerly light, by the gathering of the gloaming you are gloomy and ready for a cup or two or seven and a half of analgesic, anaesthetic, or liquor of lethe.

Which is not to say that stunkard refers to being a stinking drunkard. No, though many a stunkard person is stunned by a tankard, this is more of a mood than a boozing. It lands with a thunk and keeps you hunkered. And along with being dejected, it is an adjective. It means, according to Oxford, “sulky, sullen.” (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary makes it “stubborn, sullen.”)

Like so many of the more spiky-delicious words in Oxford, it is Scots (they gave us haggis and peaty whisky, so what less could we expect from their lexis?). It is also “of obscure origin.” (Webster’s curtly says “origin unknown” and turns back to its book, which you should not have pulled it away from.) And – again an Oxford house specialty – it appears to have had its peak popularity some two centuries ago. Here’s from The Saxon and the Gaël by C.I. Johnstone: “I was speerin’ for you at my Lord, but he is sae stunkard and paughty.”

So, yes, this is certainly a word for a mid-adolescent. It is also a word for anyone else who is given to sulking and unlikely to be moved to action. It is undeniably a word for the Grinch: not just “stink, stank, stunk” but a decisive “stunkard” there too. But, because many of us have perfectly good reason not to be super chippy and chirpy and a ray of damn sunshine, it gets around somewhat more. Laurie Anderson may tell us that “Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much, much better,” but that just reminds us that there is much, much better that we could have. If only we weren’t beholden to the whims of the high and mighty who are so much more stunkard than we. Hmmmmmmmmmmph.

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