Growl, groan, mutter and when to use them

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Mark and Steve talk about these words that sound a bit grumpy and grouchy and, in fact, are.

Steve: Well Mark, this is going to be our first podcast since Jill left.

Mark: That’s right.

I think the last few weeks we had been away and we had recorded a few ahead of time that went up, but this is indeed.

It’s the first time that we’ve done one together in awhile.

Steve: I know.

Mark: Since we sort of switched off with Jill for a long time.

Steve: We’re going to miss Jill.

First of all, of course, it’s a very happy occasion.

She had a baby girl, Clara; whatever she was, 5 ½ pounds.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Both mom and daughter are doing well, but we’re going to miss her because she was great to have here to talk about different subjects.

Mark: And I’m sure many of you will as well, but you’ll have to settle for us.

Steve: Or we may introduce some other guest speakers.

No, I think it’s good to have both the male and female voices.

Mark: Oh absolutely.

Steve: And so, unfortunately, you’ll have to make do with the Mutt and Jeff combination here of Mark and Steve.

Mark, you mentioned to me that one of our learners had asked about certain words?

Mark: Yeah, on our Forum Annapaula from Brazil was asking us to talk about the difference between or at least the words “groan”, “growl” and “mutter.” I guess the differences and similarities and when to use one and not the other and so forth.

Steve: You know it’s interesting, it’s not only in English, but I’m finding this in Russian as well that words that imply you know “grumble”, “growl”, “grouch”, “mutter”, they all have “r’s” in them, so I think “aarr”, “uurr” is kind of a sound that’s associated with being not too happy or grouchy or growly or whatever.

However, be that as it may…

Mark: Although, mutter isn’t necessarily related to being unhappy. I guess it is; in a way it is.

Steve: No, but if you looked up the entomology the origin of that word it might have something to do with that.

So, when do you growl?

Who growls?

Mark: Well, I know Gordie my dog growls at shadows mostly at night.

Steve: Would you say that we associate the word growl with animals?

Mark: For the most part. I would say it probably comes from animals and then is sort of transferred to humans.

Steve: Right, particularly dogs.

I mean cats don’t growl.

Mark: No.

Steve: But dogs growl.

Mark: Right.

Steve: That is an onomatopoeic word.

In other words, it sounds like the meaning.

Mark: Right.

Steve: What was the next one?

Mark: Obviously, though, if we talk about a person growling at someone that just means they’re talking unkindly or snapping or snarling or growling.

Steve: There’s another “r” word.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And, typically, we think of someone who has a bit of a nasty personality as growling.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And we wouldn’t say, necessarily, I mean we couldn’t imagine Jill growling.

Mark: No.

Steve: No, but you or I might growl.

Mark: Well, when it warrants it.

Steve: When it’s warranted. What was the other word?

Mark: So that was growl. There was groan, I believe.

Steve: Okay, now groan can be either an animal or a human being.

Mark: Yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily associate it with an animal.

I mean, yeah, it could be.

Steve: Right.

Mark: It’s more a sound you make, it’s an unhappy sound or when you’re in pain.

Steve: Pain is the word.

Mark: Yeah, right.

Steve: If I think of a word to associate with groan it’s groaning with pain.

Mark: Or you can groan with disappointment.

Steve: Yes, yes, so that it’s almost sort of figurative pain.

Mark: Right.

Steve: “Oh no” groaned so and so.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Alright, growl, groan.

Mark: Growl, groan and mutter.

Steve: Mutter; mutter is a little different.

When I think of mutter, again, we often think of sort of handy phrases for words.

When I think of mutter the first phrase that comes to mind is “He muttered under his breathe.

That foolish Mark, why did he do that?” It’s sort of speaking not very clearly and, typically, you’re grumbling and griping…

Mark: …about something or someone.

Steve: There again, we have some similar sounding words.

Mark: Right.

Steve: To grumble is to mutter and to complain and to gripe.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Which means the same.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: So, I hope that helps Annapaula.

You know we’re very happy, very happy to respond to any requests we get from people and, particularly, people like Annapaula.

There’s a small group of very keen people from a variety of language groups — Japanese, Portuguese, German, French, Spanish — I mean all of them really.

In every language group there are a few core people who are very enthusiastic, they’re active on our Forum, they take full advantage of LingQ and so when they ask us a question we’re really happy to answer, but I think we’re happy to answer anybody’s question.

Mark: Yeah, I mean we’re not too fussy.

If it’s a good question and we think our learners would enjoy listening we’re very happy to have the input.

Steve: Right.

Mark: So, yeah, please let us know on the EnglishLingQ Forum or on our Forum somewhere; we’ll see it.

Steve: One thing, thinking of, you know, events in the world, I mean today, of course, we have a very clear sunny day, it’s a little bit windy, a little bit cool, but I think a number of our places in the world have had very late winters.

I was recently in San Francisco and I met a fellow there who got into the elevator and he was from Austria.

He said Austria was just covered in snow; a deep sort of snowfall.

And Eastern Canada has had very cold weather.

It seems that there has been sort of a very late winter in many parts of the world.

Even here we had snow, which is rather unusual for us to have snow at the end of March.

Mark: Yeah, I mean it’s unusual, but it’s not that unusual.

Steve: No.

Mark: I was reading somewhere something like 50% of the snowfall in Canada normally comes after March 1st.

Steve: Oh is that right?

Mark: Yeah, so that, in fact, people kind of think the spring is coming.

To a larger degree maybe it does here in Vancouver, but I mean we do get…March is very often a cool month with a lot of precipitation and if it’s cold enough it snows.

But I do think, yeah, both in Eastern Canada and in Europe they had a cold winter.

I was talking to somebody recently who I guess was in a ski resort in Austria and they said the amount of snow this year was unbelievable.

Steve: Of course you were skiing with your family up in Big White; I guess you had a good time?

Mark: Oh yeah, there again, the amount of snow was…I mean there was a lot of snow, but last year there was a lot of snow too.

We had a cold winter here too last year and I guess in Europe it was quite warm.

Steve: Right.

Mark: At any rate, I guess all of the cold weather in these different parts of the world are bucking the global warming trend, I suppose.

Steve: And, no doubt, very welcome as far as the operators of ski resorts are concerned.

Mark: Yeah, I would think so.

Steve: They need the white stuff.

Mark: That’s right.

Steve: You know I was thinking this morning, actually, as I was driving in and I think about how unreliable weather can be.

I thought to myself, boy, I wouldn’t like to be a farmer.

Can you imagine being a farmer?

At different times of the year if you get unseasonable rainfall it can totally ruin your crops.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Here we had an early sort of warming period and so certain plants and flowers started to come out and feel good about themselves.

All of a sudden we had this cold spell and then rain and snow and it turns those flowers into mush.

Mark: Is that right.

Steve: Well, that’s what Carmen was telling me; I didn’t look at it that closely.

So to be a farmer you have to have a lot of courage and a deep bank account I think.

Mark: I would think so.

I mean I think it’s no different than I guess the ski resorts.

If you do have a bad year where you don’t get snow I mean you’ve got to make up for it in the good years.

I know that I was up snowshoeing on the local hill yesterday and the amount of snow even here in Vancouver up on the mountain…I mean every time I go up there it’s another three feet higher than it was the time before.

I mean to climb up to the start of the trail from the parking lot is 20 feet up now.

Steve: And it is extraordinary.

We are lucky that, you know, it’s 5-6 degrees Centigrade — whatever that is in Fahrenheit – here and warm and sunny and we drive up there and we can ski.

I went skiing yesterday too, cross-country skiing and the only inconvenience at the lower levels was that when I was in the shade I could actually glide.

Especially if I’m going downhill in the shade and I then I hit a sunny spot, all of a sudden my body goes flying forward and my skis stayed behind somewhere, so you had to really be balanced properly.

I mean you just come to a stop in the sunny spots.

Mark: Yeah, when you have that difference between sun and shade, especially on those cross-country skis, because they don’t…I don’t know, they stick more or they’re lighter.

Steve: They’re lighter or something.

Mark: Yeah and, actually, we thought we’d get spring skiing conditions up at Big White, but I don’t think it was above zero the whole time we were there.

Steve: You know you’re quite right, when I think back of downhill skiing the skis are heavier and you go through the slush and it’s not a problem.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: But in those light cross-country skis they just stick.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: It’s like skiing downhill and then all of a sudden your skis hit glue.

Mark: You didn’t manage to wipeout too many times?

Steve: I didn’t wipeout, no, no.

No, no, I was okay there, but it’s wonderful just to be able to go out for a couple of hours and get that exposure to the nice, cool, still winter environment.

And then in certain places you have this view of the ocean, you know, and the sun glistening on the waves and you’re up there in this white winter wonderland.

We’ve very lucky.

Mark: We are.

I mean you hear it said, but I mean where else can you go where you could have played golf in the morning and gone skiing in the afternoon all within 20 minutes.

Steve: But you know every place has its advantages and its attractions and its charm and, of course, we were in San Francisco…you weren’t, but Carmen and I were in San Francisco over the weekend; that’s a spectacular city.

We could, perhaps, do another podcast just on San Francisco.

Mark: Sure.

Steve: It’s spectacular; cities are interesting to visit.

I could do another one on Riga, which I visited last year, which is also fascinating, you know.

Of course we’ve lived in places like Hong Kong and Tokyo and Paris and there’s so much to explore in the world, whether it be cities where you have a lot of people where they have created this, you know, cultural and, you know, structural thing or whether it be nature.

Mark: Right.

Steve: There’s just so much to see.

Mark: Yeah, for sure.

Steve: So maybe we’ll talk about travel the next time.

Mark: Sounds good.

Steve: Alright.

I hope that there are a lot of good words and expressions here for our listeners and we look forward to hearing from you.

If you have any particular questions about English, don’t hesitate to let us know.

Mark: Or if you’d like us to talk about your city or you have input on your city; maybe we’ve been there too.

Steve: Right, yeah, absolutely.

Okay then, bye Mark.

Mark: Bye-bye.

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