Friday, April 24, 2015


The English language is a weird thing. I suppose other languages may be just as weird, but I wouldn't know since I don't speak any other language. I once took German, but I never got beyond a second semester. And even the English that I do speak is in a heavy low-country dialect and peppered with various bits of southern slang.

Which is why I wanted to mention the word in the title of this bit of my blog:


Now, when most people hear or see that word they either have no idea what it is, or they recognize it as a small fish known for flopping around on the California sand to lay its eggs in vast numbers before either being eaten by predators (including humans) or retreating to the sea.

But here in the corner of the South where I grew up, grunion was something else entirely. What it meant was generally a person of less than average stature and/or strength. Grunion was reserved for the smallest fry who either tried to go out for a spot on the football team, or who actually made the team, but were still tagged with the epithet for being shorter and weaker than everyone else. In fact, most football teams generally have one or two grunions on the squad.

Why did this word make the leap from a fish to a type of person? I reckon, perhaps, because of the allusion I made above ("small fry"). But that could have served for any type of little fish, or maybe some small animal. Why didn't something else catch hold? Why grunion? is kind of cool, unique word. And there is something in the sound of it that indicates a certain level of contempt toward those on whom it is used. From what I understand it is pretty much a uniquely southern use of the word. If you played football in vast parts of the southeastern USA, then you likely heard the term or used it, or perhaps were even the target of it.

Football players can be real assholes.

At any rate, from the Big Thicket of Texas to the coast of Virginia I suspect that there are little guys running around on the football fields trying to make the cut, or trying to earn a starting spot who hear it to describe them.

Go get 'em, grunions.

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