Another Americanism?

In her book Horrible Words: A Guide to the Misuse of English (2016), Rebecca Gowers uses the word gripers in preference to sticklers (a word I myself always associate with Lynne Truss’s  famous Eats Shoots and Leaves), and in her paper at our Life after HUGE? symposium in December last year, she explained why.

Force of habit made me check the word in the OED just now, where I found only two quotations for griper, n., sense 7, both from the 1930s and both from an American source (the same one). The entry has not been updated yet (and it will be interesting to see whether Rebecca’s use of the word makes it into the OED when it is!), but it did make me wonder whether griper in the sense “One who complains” is indeed an Americanism. Is it?

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3 Responses to Another Americanism?

  1. adrianstenton says:

    My Chambers (13th edition, 2014) lists “griper” without a label, as does the Concise Oxford (11th edition, 2008) and Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate (1983), so perhaps it isn’t. Once again, more to be done …

  2. adrianstenton says:

    Here are some figures from the Google Ngram Viewer (If it’s good enough for Bryan Garner …):

    gripers vs. sticklers
    Google Ngram Viewer
    1800–2000

    English corpus
    1800
    gripers 0.0000006990
    sticklers 0.0000153278

    1900
    gripers 0.0000000568
    sticklers 0.0000138363

    2000
    gripers 0.0000003263
    sticklers 0.0000039619

    American English corpus
    1800
    gripers 0.0000000000
    sticklers 0.0000023241

    1900
    gripers 0.0000000418
    sticklers 0.0000118947

    2000
    gripers 0.0000003895
    sticklers 0.0000044189

    British English corpus
    1800
    gripers 0.0000013653
    sticklers 0.0000189870

    1900
    gripers 0.0000003685
    sticklers 0.0000114812

    2000
    gripers 0.0000001480
    sticklers 0.0000031850

    This would seem to suggest that, even given the limitations of the corpus, “stickler” has been the more common term for two centuries in both British and American English.

  3. Paul Nance says:

    Merriam-Webster Collegiate (1959) labels the verb gripe in its sense “to grumble; complain” as US slang

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