Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Music

Have You Ever Had The Mollygrubs?

Words used in the south

According to research people are more likely to experience bouts of depression during the winter months. I’ve written about having the blues here on the Blind Pig before-you know things like the baby blues, the love sick blues, and even the I’m grounded and can’t go contra dancing blues.

I’ve heard other words or phrases used to describe someone who is suffering from the blues:

  • sad and down and out
  • in the doldrums
  • downhearted
  • down in the dumps
  • had the mopes
  • a bad case of the miseries

But I had never heard someone who had the blues described as having the mollygrubs until Jim Casada shared that his Grandpa Joe used the word in that manner. After doing a little research on the word usage I discovered there are variations of the word: mollygrubs; mulligrubs; mulligrumbs; mollygrunt; and mullygrubs to name a few.

The Free Dictionary has this entry for mullygrubs: Rur. to feel depressed. She had the mullygrubs because her husband was out of town. Joe had the mullygrubs. We tried to cheer him up.

Dictionary.com has this entry:

mul·li·grubs [muhl-i-gruhbz] Show IPA
noun ( used with a singular or plural verb ) Southern U.S.
ill temper; colic; grumpiness.
Origin:
1590–1600; earlier mulligrums, apparently alteration of megrims

Meriam Wesbster has this entry:

mul·li·grubs noun plural

Full Definition of MULLIGRUBS

1
: a despondent, sullen, or ill-tempered mood : sulks, blues
2
: a griping of the intestines : colic
Variants of MULLIGRUBS

mul·li·grubs or mul·ly·grubs also mol·ly·grubs
Origin of MULLIGRUBS

alter. (prob. influenced by grub) of earlier mulliegrums, perh. alter. (perh. influenced by obs. E mully dusty, moldy, fr. E 1mull + -y) of megrims, pl. of 1megrim

The T FOR TRANSLATION website has an interesting post about the word-you can go here to read it in its entirety. The post tells about the history of the word mullygrubs and discusses how it has fallen out of use in most of the US. However, according to the article, the word is still very popular in the country of Australia, where a 1990s television show was titled Mulligrubs.

T FOR TRANSLATION also shares three interesting quotes from past writings.

  • Idleness lies in bed sick of the mulligrubs where industry finds health and wealth. (Brave Men and Women by O.E. Fuller)
  • ‘Tis the maddest trick a man can ever play in his whole life, to let his breath sneak out of his body without any more ado, and without so much as a rap o’er the pate, or a kick of the guts; to go out like the snuff of a farthing candle, and die merely of the mulligrubs, or the sullens. (Don Quixote, by Miguel De Cervantes)
  • As for myself, while I have scarce stirred to take exercise for four or five days, no wonder I had the mulligrubs. (The Journal of Sir Walter Scott by Sir Walter Scott).

Just in case you’re suffering from the mollygrubs here’s a song from The Pressley Girls about keeping the blues way.

I hope you enjoyed the old Delmore Brothers song and the fascinating information about the word mollygrubs. Even though I had never heard the word before Jim mentioned it, the word seems to capture being down in the dumps perfectly.

Tipper

*Sources:  The Free Dictionary, Dictionary.com, T FOR TRANSLATION website, Meriam Wesbster, More Mulligrubs by Bruce Todd, Jim Casada.

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    Judith
    January 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Tipper,
    Perhaps the saying is regional. Our families in Arkansas used the term “mully grub” for being lazy, out-of-sorts and just plain old down and out. This disagreeably cold weather is enough to make all around here just “mully grub”
    around. The lack of sunshine makes us feel SAD (seasonal affective disorder) because of lack of daylight. Our days are getting longer so maybe we will feel better. However, I think I will “mully grub” until I don’t feel these cold, cold temperatures.

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    January 24, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Great job on a great old song! Have heard mollygrubs all my life, though rarely afflicted with them myself.

  • Reply
    Peggy Lambert
    January 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    Tipper
    Never heard of Molly Grubs, but have heard of someone just lolled or lolly- gagging or gagged all day long or wasted time in aimless activity. I do this some days.
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 24, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    I put a comment on the Girl’s youtube video a couple of days ago suggesting that they let you play the bass line and that they sing this song without their instruments. I think it would be good! I tried playing along with them on Dusty’s six string and it sounded pretty good, I thought. I didn’t get a response but I don’t get a response to a lot of things lately, so I don’t know if my comments are not getting through or what.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    January 24, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    I love the song. They can sing anything so beautiful. Yes, I’ve heard the Mollygrubs and said it before. Down in the dumps is pretty common in my family. lol.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    January 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    I have heard the word. Mom would say, “why are you moping around here with that long face?” Or, “you look like you’ve lost your best friend.” I guess that’s a lot like the mollygrubs!

  • Reply
    Carolyn Hunt
    January 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    My mama always said molligrubs. If someone was depressed she would say “ok let’s get you out of the molligrubs.”

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    January 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    My Granny always complained about having cabin fever around Feb each year. When I lived in Seattle for a few years I began to understand what cabin fever was all about…..

  • Reply
    Howland
    January 24, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Never heard of the mollygrubs but dad useta come down with a case of ‘collywobbles of the necktie’ every once in a while. ‘Round here, both the Mountain Woman and I have gotten a dose of Bedstead Fever due to the very cold mornings and lack of wannadoos…

  • Reply
    gailatthefarm
    January 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Yep, had ’em.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    January 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Tipper,
    Them Pressley Girls are just like an
    RCA, getting better and better. I love
    the harmony.
    Never heard of Mollygrubs, but I do
    know some folks that get really
    depressed in January and February.
    This morning I thought I lived in
    2 Below, Mississippi. That’s what it
    was at my house. My 3″ of snow is so
    hard you can walk on it without even
    making a track…Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 24, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    Tipper,
    I heard used all that you mentioned for the winter blues…
    A doctor even told my Mother once that he thought she had the “after Christmas blues”…I guess it is a let down of all the previous excitement, cooking, houseful of folks, laughter, etc.
    Then “boom” the holidays are gone, short days, the weather usually gets colder and January seems to be the longest month of the year. Along with being cold, few outside things can be accomplished. Although very cold we have been blessed with more sunshine than most folks around us.
    I have been trying to beat the “pip”, mollygrubs, downandouts, and winter blues doing some inside things, beside housework! I have croched two scarfs, two dish rags (cloths), made a fruit jar pincushion, made an old yarn doll, (like we made in the fifties to pin on your sweater) did this while watching TV, covered a cardboard box with vintage wrapping paper (storage box for my craft paint), did a bunch of sketches for mixed media paintings I want to do sometime, and messed around with this computer. Looked on Pinterest, and got the lazies all over again!
    It is so cold here today, they closed school. Some children have to stand and wait for the bus as early as 6:30 in the AM, out in the county!
    Have a warm day. I might start another afghan or something…too cold to open the windows and start Spring cleaning, who wants to anyway…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Tamela
    January 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Cool Word – – bet it makes a comeback throughout the country after today’s post 😉 !

  • Reply
    Ken Ryan
    January 24, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I’ve never used that word. Good job by the girls. It snowed last night in East Texas. 2 inches! It’s been a long time. But it’s already melting. But I sure don’t have the mollygrubs this morning.

  • Reply
    Marc Kruger
    January 24, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Here in Wisconsin when the weather prevents a lot of outdoor activity depression is referred to as ‘cabin fever’.
    Thank you for the cheerful music!

  • Reply
    Tom
    January 24, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Thanks Pressley Girls, I needed that! Great job as usual and sure gonna help me chase away the mollygrubs I’m experiencing.

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    January 24, 2014 at 9:17 am

    I use Mullygrubbs all the time. Crusty Old Guy thinks it is funny.

  • Reply
    Wanda
    January 24, 2014 at 9:17 am

    We called it “mullygrubs” also having “the can’t help its”.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 24, 2014 at 8:25 am

    Great job, ladies – on the singing, playing, and digging up grubs (mollygrubs, that is).
    There must be a thermal up the road at cousin Bill’s – it’s under 4 on the front (south) porch and 0 on the back (north) porch.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull, PhD
    January 24, 2014 at 8:02 am

    As you well know this low temperature and trouble all over the world is a perfect set up for ‘down in the dumps’ Mulleygrubing through out the day!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    dolores
    January 24, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Another morning of good learning – mollygrubs, I think I get them when I don’t know what I want to do. I had never heard that word before, but now I have added it to my vocabulary, and plan to find an opportunity to use the word. I hope no one gets the mollygrubs today.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Mogogs, that’s what Forrest used to call it. I’ve not heard the word mollygrubs, that I can recall but I have had the mollygrubs. Usually when there are too many dark days I get a little down but sunshine immediately drives it away.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    January 24, 2014 at 7:25 am

    That’s one of my favorite words – rolls off the tongue & defines itself. I have no idea if I heard it or read it but have used it for years.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 24, 2014 at 7:21 am

    I never heard that term, but love it!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    January 24, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Great job by the girls, their harmony would help anyone’s feelings even if they had a full blown case of the mollygrubs and putting up with the seven degree temps like it is here in Bryson City this morning.

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    January 24, 2014 at 7:10 am

    I had not heard this word for years and never saw it writen . My Dad used to tell me to quit”mollygrubing around” that was something like “Mopeing”

  • Reply
    TimMc
    January 24, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Hmm,, maybe that’s what I had.. Mollygrubs,, never heard of it.. Good job girls, now that orta drive them Mollygrubs away..

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