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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a feeling of grumpiness first thing in the morning

While Aurora was famously the goddess of the dawn in Ancient Rome, her less widely venerated cousin, Matuta, was worshipped in western and southern fringes of the empire as a goddess of the morning (as well as, in the sense of new beginnings, childbirth and harbours).

It is from her name that we have obtained a clutch of antemeridian words like matins (‘morning church services’), the adjective matuntinal (‘occurring in the morning’), as well as both mañana (‘tomorrow’) via Spanish, and matinée (‘an afternoon performance’) via French—with the French word for ‘morning’, matin, being somewhat loosely used here to mean ‘daytime’ or ‘daylight’.

Matuta is also apparently responsible for the curious word matutolypea, which somewhat awkwardly binds her name to lype, a Greek word for grief or mourning. ‘Morning-mourning’ might not seem the most artful of word formations, but nevertheless matutolypea is a word for a feeling of grumpiness or downheartedness experienced first thing in the morning. Essentially, it is the grown-up, classically educated version of ‘getting out of the wrong side of the bed’.

Despite those impressive classical roots however, matutolypea seems to be a fairly modern invention. There is no record of the word in print prior to as recently as 1979, when the American author Stephanie Vaughn included it in her short story Sweet Talk. In a scene in which the story’s unnamed narrator passes the time on a long car journey by quizzing her husband on some of the most obscure words she can find in the dictionary, matutolypea makes its debut appearance in print alongside the likes of matachin (‘a sixteenth century sword dance’) and mastigophobia (‘the fear of punishment’).

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