Bitter or acerbic? or does it make a difference?


One of my colleagues told me that my name came up in conversation, and somebody said that they thought I had a reputation for being bitter.

My colleague defended me. "Nah, Raymond isn't bitter. He's, I dunno, acerbic."

"Acerbic? What does that mean?"

My colleague looked it up.

"It means, um... bitter."

Comments (21)
  1. anonymouscommenter says:

    Raymond is actually just a big teddy bear.

  2. anonymouscommenter says:

    "Acerbic" is more biting than bitter (hence: 'sour or bitter').

  3. anonymouscommenter says:

    Reminds me a bunch of Firefly:

    Inara: "I didn't mean petty."

    Mal: "What did you mean?"

    Inara: "…Suoxi?"

    Mal: "That's Chinese for petty."

  4. anonymouscommenter says:

    As applied to a person, I'd say that "bitter" describes how the person is whereas "acerbic" describes how the person comes across to (some) others. Or put another way, "acerbic" is the other guy's problem.

  5. Timothy Byrd (ETAP) says:

    I agree with Ken.

    To me a bitter person is one who has a bitter attitude toward life,

    while an acerbic person makes biting remarks on the follies of others.

  6. anonymouscommenter says:

    They both mean the same except that bitter implies past tense whereas acerbic implies present tense.

  7. anonymouscommenter says:

    Actually, it lists bitter second, under the "archaic" heading.  Prior to that it says:

    > "(especially of a comment or style of speaking) sharp and forthright"

    Which seems to be something else altogether.  And, after all, most thermonuclear devices are "sharp and forthright".

  8. anonymouscommenter says:

    @Raymond "It means, um… bitter."

    No it doesn't. It's either "1.(especially of a comment or style of speaking) sharp and forthright: " or "2.tasting sour or bitter."

    It only means bitter if they were discussing how you taste, which I hope they weren't but I don't know what your reputation is :-)

  9. cheong00 says:

    Since acerbic means sour or bitter… do you drink a lot of coffee? (I remember the characteristic chart of coffees also have acidity rating)

  10. anonymouscommenter says:

    I would suggest that when applied to personality types they mean different things.  An acerbic personality it one characterized by being blunt or forthright.  A bitter personality is one characterized by resentfulness.

  11. anonymouscommenter says:

    I totally agree with Chris above! :)

  12. anonymouscommenter says:

    Hmmm… I haven't actually seen much evidence of "thermonuclear reactions" in this blog. As long as one reads the documentation, understands the underlying problem, tries not to make it into two problems, tries not to ask pointless questions, tries to "be somebody", one should be perfectly fine. It all seems perfectly reasonable, so I'm assuming those coworkers never bother with this blog?

  13. anonymouscommenter says:

    England used to be inhabited by travelers from Germany (the Saxons).  "Bitter" was one of their words — along with "f#ck", "sh!t", "piss", "fart" and "bled".  Note that these weren't their slang words; these were the proper (and only) words in the language to describe those things.

    The in 1066, travelers from France (the Normans) invaded.  These were the people who "copulated", "defecated", "urinated", "flatulated", and "exsanguinated".  Some were also acerbic, and like all conquerors, they:

     – Made themselves the aristocracy.

     – made their language the official language.

     – made the native people slaves.

     – denied education to the newly slaved populous (and thus having no way to learn the new official language, continued speaking their old, now outlawed, language)

    Which is why Modern English has two words for everything. Farmers of the time would raise "cows" and "pigs", which would be served to the masters as "beef" and "pork".

    In some cases, one word of the pair is deemed to be the "proper, official" word, used by upstanding citizens, while the other is the "bad" word spoken only by the lower classes.

    So, basically, we're engaging in a 900-hundred year old class warfare, which started a half a world away, among two classes which don't exist anymore.

    (In other cases, like "ensure" and "insure", different words were created by our formerly rather loose spelling rules, until we decided we couldn't stand having one word spelled two different ways, and decided to give one a slightly different meaning.  Bitter/acerbic is a victim of that as well.)

  14. anonymouscommenter says:

    Bitter vs. Acerbic.  I enjoy the blog too much to characterize the author using either of those words.

  15. anonymouscommenter says:

    @neminem Errr, I'm a Chinese, but I don't know what Suoxi means…

  16. cheong00 says:

    @lilydjwg: 小氣.

  17. cheong00 says:

    @lilydjwg: Oh, searching using "Suo Xi" and found "瑣細".

    I can't handle Mandarin well. :P

  18. anonymouscommenter says:

    >Which is why Modern English has two words for everything. Farmers of the time would raise "cows" and "pigs",

    > which would be served to the masters as "beef" and "pork".

    It's way more complicated than that.

    foodschool.ca/assignments/grade-12-tfj4e-course-outline/beef/

    "Females who have not yet had a calf are called heifers; after bearing a calf they are referred to as cows. Males are bulls, steers (castrated bulls), or bullocks (young steers). Bulls are not generally sold as fresh meat, and only steers, heifers, and bullocks produce beef of the highest quality."

    en.wikipedia.org/…/Cattle

  19. anonymouscommenter says:

    Acerbic is a quality of conversation. Bitter is a quality of state of mind.

    Acerbic is more like sharp or maybe biting in conversation. Bitter is feeling let down by the world (something like that).

    You can be acerbic because you're bitter. You can't really be bitter because you're acerbic.

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