Everybody grumbles—it’s a basic human behavior. Still, it sometimes seems as though everybody’s doing it more. Last week, I spent the day keeping track of my social interactions, asking myself what percentage included grumbling. The answer was nearly a hundred per cent. I had grumbled; my friends had grumbled; if I’d overheard a phone conversation on the street, it had involved grumbling. It’s the kind of thing that makes you think. Maybe, if we had a keen vision and feeling for all that grumbling, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we’d die of that roar which lies on the other side of positivity and contentment.
Given its omnipresence, it’s tempting to say that grumbling may be the quintessential modern speech act. But, at the same time, it’s hard to talk about.