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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.

chagrin

[ˈʃægrɪn]

noun

1. A feeling of mortification, disappointment and annoyance.

2. A keen feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or a disconcerting event: To her chagrin, the party ended just as she arrived.

transitive verb: chagrined, chagrining, chagrins

1. To embarrass and annoy; mortify. To cause to feel chagrin; mortify or discomfit: He was chagrined at the poor sales of his book.

adjective: chagrined

1. A state of embarrassment, disappointment or frustration caused by disappointment.

Etymology

French, possibly from dialectal French chagraigner, to distress, become gloomy, from Old French graim, sorrowful, gloomy, of Germanic origin.

At one time chagrin was thought to be the same word as shagreen, “a leather or skin with a rough surface,” derived from French chagrin. The reasoning was that in French the word for this rough material, which was used to smooth and polish things, was extended to the notion of troubles that fret and annoy a person. It was later decided, however, that the sense “rough leather” and the sense “sorrow” each belonged to a different French word chagrin.

Other etymologists have offered an alternative explanation, suggesting that the French word chagrin, “sorrow,” is a loan translation of the German word Katzenjammer, “a hangover from drinking.”

The word probably derives originally from a Germanic word, gram, meaning “sorrow, trouble.” Chagrin is first recorded in English in 1656 in the now obsolete sense “anxiety, melancholy.”

Synonyms:

noun:

annoyance, embarrassment, humiliation, dissatisfaction, disquiet, displeasure, frustration, mortification, discomfiture, vexation, discomposure

verb:

annoy, embarrass, humiliate, disquiet, vex, displease, mortify, discomfit, dissatisfy, discompose, frustrate.

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From the synonyms of chagrin, you can see that it really has no true synonyms.

It’s somewhere between disappointment, frustration and mortification and it’s something you will only ever be able to define when you experience it.

For instance, when, after over a week of posting here daily, the internet went down, I was disappointed. When I tried for several hours to get it working, I was frustrated. But when I wrote a post on word, cut and paste it into my post, and lost it into the void of “the connection was reset while the page was loading”, I was getting into chagrin territory.

I wasn’t there yet though.

Another example: when I woke up this morning to find my bike was gone, I was annoyed. When I searched for an hour to no avail, I was frustrated. Spending the whole of my one day off this week in various police stations speaking broken French had me, once again, trespassing into chagrin.

I got there, don’t worry.

After this long, annoying, frustrating day, returning home to see two Fravs (French chavs) with my bike, I marched up to them and, refraining from hitting one of them, yelled a little and retrieved my bike. I thought I was chagrined then. It wasn’t until I turned around to see people staring at the emotional, slightly hysterical, wreck I had become that I understood the definition of chagrin.

Now we have a good idea of what the word means, and I’ve had a little rant, why do I like this word?

Firstly, it looks evil. It looks like the definition of itself. The grin part makes it look pure evil.

Secondly, it sounds wrong. It’s a loan word, and so it’s not pronounced as it would be pronounced if it were a word of English origin. There’s something wrong about it, some part of your brain or your mouth that wants to dispel it.

It lives up to its definition, because of this feeling, completely, making it a perfect word, in my books.

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