Monday, April 25, 2011

An A to Z of Editorial Peeves: G

This week, the gallimaufry continues with a short list of G-words that people goof up.

Grisly, grizzly, and grizzled

This trio of words landed on Eleven Words That Don't Mean What You Think They Mean back in January. This is a differentiation you'll just have to memorize. Here are the basics:
  • Grisly: Horrifying or inspiring disgust. "Tornados ripped through the trailer park, leaving behind a grisly scene."
  • Grizzly, grizzled: Streaked or dotted with gray, be it a big old bear or a wicked old man. "His scraggly, grizzly beard bespoke his many lonely years in the wilderness."
  • Grizzle: To make gray or become grayish; or to cook food over coals or propane outdoors in a Snoop-Dogg-wannabe's back yard. "On the Fourth of Julizzle, me and my homies are gonna grizzle some hambizzles at the hizzie."

This is one case when being able to pick out a language pattern will send you in the wrong direction. Gris means "gray" in both French and Spanish, so it would be only natural to think that grisly has something to do with grayness. Nuh-uh. The "griz-" is the gray, and the "gris-" is horror.

It also doesn't help that a grizzly bear attack on a grizzled old man would lead to a pretty grisly scene.