I generally have no interest in the cute coinages people keep coming up with, usually by blending two other words to achieve some strained and unnecessary meaning: beducation or whatever. Every once in a while, though, somebody invents a word that meets a hitherto unrealized need; such a word was Walpole’s “serendipity” (first written down in a letter of January 28, 1754, exactly 250 years ago today!), and such a word (or prospective word) is “igry,” invented by John Chaneski, Peter Gordon, Kevin West, and Francis Heaney some time back with the meaning ‘painfully embarrassed for or uncomfortable about someone else’s incredibly poor social behavior, or descriptive of such poor social behavior.’ Heaney gives this example:

Like, say you’re at a restaurant, and one of the people at your table summons the waiter by snapping their fingers. Watching this makes you die a little inside. You feel igry. (Or you might think, “What an igry thing to do.”)

In the Mark Liberman post at Language Log that introduced me to the word, Heaney expands as follows:

…when I see someone I respect writing about “reigning in one’s impulses” or something, it does make me feel embarrassed for them, and it definitely generates a little of that dying-inside feeling that is the core of igriness. Limiting my definition to merely reactions to poor behavior might be too narrow. Like, here’s another f’rinstance: watching the trailer to the new Ben Stiller movie makes me igry, not because the subject matter of the movie seems offensive, but because it just pains me so much that Ben Stiller keeps taking such embarrassing roles in crappy movies.

I think the utility of this word is obvious. And I should mention that it will put paid to “the goddamn -gry riddle,” which was in fact the impetus for the word’s creation. Use it today!
Addendum. A comment by stripe in this MonkeyFilter thread refers to a problem I myself have with Heaney’s definition:

The definition seems strained. Something somebody else does can “make you feel igry” but yet their action is “igry” as well? Adjectives aren’t normally used this way: if somebody else does something ‘dumb’, it doesn’t cause you to ‘feel dumb’. There’s probably a reason for this and the reason is that if you don’t specify the causation of the ‘igryness’ you can’t tell if it’s caused by the person feeling it. It would be better to say somebody else’s behavior ‘is igrying’ or ‘igryifying’ (probably the former) but how on earth do you pronounce them?

I think the phrase “or descriptive of such poor social behavior” should be deleted, and the thought of the sloppily formed definition makes me a little igry.
Further addendum. Chuck Welch of BlogJazz contributes a haiku to the cause.


  1. I feel igry,
    Oh so igry …

  2. We already have that concept in Spanish-speaking countries – it’s called “vergüenza ajena”: literally, other’s shame, or shame on behalf of the other (who’s usually blissfully unaware of your sufferings).
    I’ve seen psychology texts in which this was referred to as “Spanish shame”.

  3. I’ve read that snapping your fingers at the waitstaff is normal in Germany. (Or was 30-40 years ago. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.)

  4. But the noun would be “iger”.

  5. I’m waiting for the day this word enters the dictionary. I feel igry all the time, especiallty when I have to deal with one of my colleagues

  6. What are some more scenarios that make you igry? Here’s one:
    When you’re in mixed company and a particularly brash and tactless individual makes the offhand comment, in his usual high-volume voice, that he has not masturbated in almost three years.
    Groans abound, and I suddenly notice that igry feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  7. Started writing a comment – but it became a post.

  8. Not to be a party-pooper, but I must confess that even though I know the cringe-laden sentiment well (having once been addicted to I love Lucy and, more recently, The Office), the neologism “igry” just doesn’t do it for me. Perhaps it’s too close to angry, and doesn’t have enough ‘ungh’ or ‘ow’ or there but for the grace of…

  9. The Office makes me so igry I can’t even watch it.

  10. Regarding the addendum, compare the word “hot” in the sexual sense. It is possible for somebody to make you hot by being hot.
    I’ve also heard “yiffy” used that way, but not for a long time. Besides, since it’s practically synonymous with my other example, it might not be a great example.

  11. If I were proofreading my posts, I might not repeat words or repeat words so much.

  12. The “or descriptive of such poor social behavior” part of the igry definition wasn’t part of the original definition we came up with. I was merely describing how the word came to be used among my acquaintances. Such is language. After seeing enough people do igry-making things, it just became easier to say “Oh, my god, did you see that igry thing he just did?”
    Anyway, another word that shows a similar transitiveness of sense is “nauseous” (which has a nice thematic similarity to “igry”; perhaps that similarity is why it was so easy to make the “igry” usage shift), which can mean both “causing nausea” and “affected with nausea”. Some people think that the “affected with nausea” sense is incorrect, and that only the word “nauseated” should be used for it, but Merriam-Webster slaps them down:

  13. I don’t know – where I am we use “cringy” – which is just the adjectival form of the slightly bastardised meaning of the word cringe – but any spelling looks wrong for some reason. “Cringeworthy” is also an option.

  14. Another two-way adjective: suspicious.

  15. The welcome screen for AOL had a headline yesterday which said, “Bush could of …”
    Igry indeed !! Shame, shame.

  16. Spanish has long defined a term for what you describe as igry: *verguenza ajena* (to feel shame on behalf of another person).

  17. I’ll just leave this here, in re the addendum: igrivating

  18. I like it!

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