I’m always on the lookout for new words, opportunities to push the boundaries of my vocabulary, so when I encountered the word “girning” in an A. S. Byatt short story, I had to make a note of this one. In the context, it was a whining or complaining sound (made, in this case by a dog), and was something that I found to be a familiar concept, having a dog who is apt to girn. But there’s another meaning to this as well: To girn also means to make faces and “girning” can refer to a competition in which the competitors make silly faces while framed by a horse collar. It seems a wonderful sort of diversion.






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