Feeling a bit grotty today? Had a Hard Day's Night? Tim Bowen explains the colourful origins of this Word of the week which first appeared in the UK after it was used by the Beatles.
The Macmillan English dictionary for Advanced learners defines grotty as ‘dirty or unpleasant’, as in 'a grotty hotel'. The word has quite a colourful history. It is generally believed to derive from grotesque, meaning either ‘strange and ugly’ or ‘extremely inappropriate and incongruous’. Grotesque, in turn, appears to be related to grotto and the association with something bizarre and ugly is said to come from the fact that strange and colourful wall paintings were found in the excavated basements and cellars of old buildings in Italy. These wall paintings were then described as grotesque because of their association with grottos.
The word grotty first appeared in the UK in the 1960s when it was used by the Beatles. It can be heard in the 1964 film A Hard day’s Night, for example. These days, apart from its use as ‘dirty or unpleasant’, it can also be applied to how people are feeling. If you are under the weather, for example, or suffering from a bad cold or flu, you can say you are feeling grotty. It can also be used to describe how you feel if you are suffering from an industrial-sized hangover.