I have a gripe with English. It is said that a man with a watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure. For a word with one meaning, or even several established meanings, I know what is meant. For words which keep adding, subtracting, and modifying meanings, I am less and less sure what is meant.
The word ‘grip’ originally meant, a grasp, a grab, a hold, by a person’s hand. Recently, technology has included machines. Once upon an archaic, the words ‘grip’ and ‘gripe’ meant the same thing. (Don’t ask me why. I can’t get a hold on it.) Now grip can mean a small suitcase with a handle, which can be grasped and carried by one hand. Gripe can be a nagging complaint by someone who may not have a firm grip on reality.
At one time, ‘grippe’, which is pronounced grip, but which is neither grip nor gripe, was the word to identify influenza, the ordinary, seasonal, gastro-intestinal ‘flu,’ a kinder, gentler, distant relative to COVID. “Grippe” could cause abdominal cramps, especially among babies and young children.
To alleviate these symptoms, “Grippe Water” was developed and marketed. My mother dosed me with it several times. The original formula contained alcohol and sugar in addition to sodium bicarbonate and dill oil – a couple of stomach calmers, some calories to replace what might have been lost to the illness, and a mild sedative to aid with sleeping. It was once said that the best remedy for a colicky baby, was a good, thick, oak door.
Then the All-Or-Nothing, Save Us From Ourselves, Snowflakes got a grip on it, and removed all the “bad” ingredients, so present-day products do not contain alcohol or sugar, but may contain fennel, ginger, chamomile, cardamom, licorice, cinnamon, clove, dill, lemon balm or peppermint, depending on the formula.
‘Grippe’ was what caused the cramping, but ‘gripe’ is the term for the actual clutching, grasping intestinal pain. Since the formula was changed, the name has also been changed. ‘Grippe Water’ is no more, and the new product is ‘Gripe Water.’ That’s only one of the English terms that I have a gripe about. 😯