Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Chandler: So, a professor, huh?
Joey: Yeah, she is cool, and she’s so smart! Her mind is totally acrimonious. (pause as his friends look confused) Guess that’s not how she used it.
– Friends (Season 9, Episode 21 – The One With The Fertility Test)
The first time I ever heard the word “acrimonious” was in an episode of Friends over ten years ago. Shortly after he starts dating a college professor, Joey repeats a word he heard her say in an attempt to sound smarter. Unfortunately, his lack of experience with it leads him to use it incorrectly in conversation, as nothing to which he refers is related to speech, nor is it spiteful in any way.
Speech or discussion that’s “acrimonious” has a bitter or angry tone to it. The word is derived from the noun “acrimony”, which means “bitterness or ill feeling”. This word arose in the mid 16th century, in the sense of “bitter taste or smell”, and can be traced back to the French noun acrimonie and the Latin noun acrimonia “sharpness”. The latter stems from the adjective acer/acris, meaning “sharp” or “pungent”.
To tell the truth, I’ve never actually used the word “acrimonious” in my writing. That may be because it reminds me too much of the aforementioned episode of Friends, or maybe it’s just because I face the same problem Joey does: an uncertainty of how to use it. How can I be sure that “acrimonious” is exactly the right word to describe a discussion in my story or if it would just seem like an attempt to sound sophisticated? I prefer not to risk it. If you’re confident that you understand this word and that it’s the best adjective for some of your descriptions, then use it at will, and best of luck to you for it. Just be careful not to make the same mistake as Joey!
Joey: Hey, if we want to grab a bite before work, we better get acrimonious. (Charlie shakes her head) No? Am I gettin’ close?
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?