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A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
1. Rude; sullen; unfriendly.
2. Ominous or dismal (used for weather, clouds, sky, ocean, etc.).
In the beginning the word meant lordly or majestic. Surly is an alteration of sirly, from sir, shortening of sire, from Old French sire, from Latin senior (older man), from senex (old). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sen- (old), which is also the ancestor of senate, senile, senectitude, and senescence. Earliest documented use: 1566.
What’s “surly” in “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth” in the poem “High Flight” by the fighter pilot John Gillespie Magee?
Magee was born in China to an American father and British mother. He joined Canadian Air Force and was posted in England. Inspiration for this poem came to him in 1941 while flying a Spitfire at 33,000 feet. The poem celebrates the joy of flying. “Surly bonds” can be seen as gravity, “surly” emphasizing its unrelenting nature.
Later that year his Spitfire collided with another plane in mid-air. Both pilots died. Both were 19. Leaving the surly bonds of Earth now takes on another meaning.
“If she often seemed surly and bad-tempered while playing tennis, seemingly taking no joy whatsoever from the sport, it’s easy to understand why now.”
Mary Hannigan; Emma Raducanu Needs to Rediscover the Joy of Sport; Irish Times (Dublin); Sep 8, 2022.
“Unfortunately, we were driven astray by treacherous winds across an enormous expanse of surly sea.”
Don Beach; Searching Heaven’s Vault; Writers Club Press; 2002.
See more usage examples of surly in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -Niels Bohr, physicist, Nobel laureate (7 Oct 1885-1962)