This was a recent entry in the always interesting Grammarphobia blog:
The “cur” in “curmudgeon”
December 6th, 2013
Q: What is the origin of the word “curmudgeon”?
A: Nobody knows, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of word detectives from speculating about it. And some of the speculations are less speculative than others. Here’s the story.
When the word “curmudgeon” first showed up in English in the late 1500s, it referred to a grasping, avaricious man.
But the online Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged describes that sense as archaic, and it says the word now means “a crusty, ill-tempered, or difficult and often elderly person.”
Yes, that would be me. I must say that I’m not "often elderly", I’m elderly, by age, each and every day. (I do sometimes wonder though at the definition of ‘elderly’: is it, as it would be in France, an ‘âge certain’ or a ‘certain âge’? There is a difference! One is one’s number of years. One is one’s outlook after that number of years.)
I can’t be a curmudgeon 24/7. Most days will find me feeling and thinking elderly and exasperated, with that “cur” in curmudgeon just growling about what’s going on in my world and the world in general. But then most days will also find me feeling young at heart - even at my ‘âge certain’ I can appreciate a great looking specimen of a man - not ill-tempered or difficult, and happy as a lark. It’s a matter of being very young in outlook too. Bien sur!