The Grinch and His Ingenious Vocab

This holiday season at home has been jam-packed with Christmas movies, and among the hoopla, of course, was the Grinch.

The Grinch is truly one of my favorite holiday movies. It’s one that I remember seeing in theatres as a kid, and one that continually gets better and more nuanced as I grow up.

Apart from the incredible makeup, Disney World-level set design, and the original backstory, the Grinch stands out in one particular way: the script.

As a pre-teen seeing this movie for the first time, Jim Carey’s body humour the dazzling holiday decorations do wonders to walk you through a plot that has a surprising depth from an adult POV.

As an adult I can see where the intelligence comes from. The Grinch spends a lot of time booking in time with himself, and the way he speaks alludes to the idea that he may very well be spending some of that time with books.

So to celebrate the season that’s merry and bright, I’m giving you a selection of the most refined, impressive, and damn-well delivered Grinch lines:

“Be it ever so heinous there’s no place like home!”

The way he inflects both heinous and home make you forget that there was ever an original version of this line. Alliteration is always a nice touch, but I think the affectionate remark about his beloved cave alongside a word as harsh as HEINOUS really kicks things into gear for this movie.

“Must be afraid of reprisals.”

Shortly after we’re introduced to his heinous home, Grinch reflects on scaring Cindy Lou at the post office. “Funny she didn’t rat on us,” he says before muttering this phrase, which again puts his intelligence on display while simultaneously showing just how out of touch he is with how kids tick.

Reprisals?! Not sure that was front of mind for a petrified Cindy Lou Who, but the Grinch, in all his Grinchiness, is surprisingly analytical.

“The impetus!” The unmitigated gall!”

This is one of my favorite sing-songy insults ever. I’m sure I’m not alone, either, as I did hear the exact same turn of phrase used on an episode of My Wife and Kids. Does it have an even earlier reference than Grinch? None that I could find, leaving me to believe this was truly yet another instance of the Grinch flexing some serious linguistic flavour.

“The avarice never ends!”

So Grinch finally goes to the Whobilation but, lo and behold, his Christmas spirit is crushed by the pure materialism of it all. The Grinch knows it’s about more than just gifts and sees the Christmas-loving creatures losing the plot of it all from miles away. His choice of words cuts deeper than just saying “things aren’t important.” To throw avarice at them before he mocks them (and taught 12-year old me that glue is made from horses…) is an affront to the very morality of the Whovillian. In the same stroke, it paints the mean old Grinch as a sensitive soul… even if he does end up setting their tree on fire.

“The crescendo of my odious opus!”

When he finally steals Christmas and gets the presents to the tip-top of Mount Crumpet to dump it, he says this. It gets points for both being both alliteration and a well-rounded metaphor, but also because, seriously, when’s the last time you heard anyone at all use the word odious?

“The bellowing of the bitterly bummed out.”

Are we seeing a trend here? This is one of the movie’s most complete alliterations, but also just damn good word choice. When’s the last time you heard someone choose bellowing? Maybe you have, but I doubt it came packaged as prettily as this.

“It came without ribbons, it came without tags”

You don’t have to be a logophile to enjoy the painfully perfect performance by Carrey. Titular character aside, this movie is a deservedly minted Christmas classic. With Anthony Hopkins as the narrator, and unceasingly whimsical cinematography by Ron Howard, the movie perfectly toes the line between family-friendly and high brow. Why? Simple—because, like it’s source material, it serves us this important reminder:

“Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more

Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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