I used to think I was an opinionated person, but lately my only opinion is that being nice is highly overrated. This, I realize, lacks the criteria for an opinion which should be a well-articulated idea based in a grounded philosophy. My so-called opinion proves not that I’m opinionated, but that I’m irritated.
And really that’s okay. Irritability, I’ve come to see, is a true service to humankind. Think about it. What do words like nice, sweet, and kind offer the world? They are short, one syllable, easily spelled words lacking in any substantial use for metaphor, simile, or onomatopoeia. “She’s as sweet as a marshmallow,” doesn’t quite do it. These words are simply insipid. But what about curmudgeon, irascible, cantankerous? They roll off the tongue and send us running to the dictionary.
Irascible. It’s truly lovely. You can just feel it, can’t you? The friction generated from rubbing against the sandpaper surface of an irascible person. Rough enough to strike a match against. To light a spark. To ignite a fire. To send your similes shooting into the air like fireworks.
And what can a curmudgeon do for your literacy skills? There’s broadening your vocabulary. There’s even onomatopoeia. Snarly, after all, causes your lip to curl up when you say it. Growling, snarling, biting. And irascible – so rrrrough, rrrrresistant, rrrrrroarrring. “RRRRRRR,” I say.
Then there’s spelling – curmudgeon after all has that tricky ‘dg.’ Cantankerous requires sounding out each syllable. Irascible, well, irascible requires the dictionary. Does being nice make you exercise your spelling skills? No. But finding the right word for a curmudgeon, one that isn’t a four letter word or will get your mouth washed out with soap, is an exercise in articulateness, literacy, and eloquence.
My mother always said that people who swear lack the vocabulary to express themselves. So the gift a querulous person offers is that they broaden your vocabulary, thereby allowing you to know more big words for telling someone off. And if they are big enough words, the other person won’t even realize you weren’t nice. They’ll think you are just a disputatious librarian.
Nice people are, of course, nice. They make us feel good. Or sometimes they make us feel guilty. Like we should be more like them. But truly being cantankerous is a gift to humanity. The querulous, fractious, and contentious among us broaden vocabularies. The irascible curmudgeons improve spelling skills. The surly, snarling, and crotchety teach the meaning of onomatopoeia. Those of us that are as choleric as a hungry bear give metaphor a new name!
So, here’s to literacy. It’s my pleasure to do all I can to help improve it. And to cantankerous people. People willing to use their snarly, fractious selves to resist.