Miffed, A Bit

The Book of Human Emotions: From Ambiguphobia to Umpty - 154 Words from Around the World for How We Feel - Tiffany Watt Smith 2016

Miffed, A Bit

There are no odes to it. No concertos, or paintings depicting its haughty little sniff. Yet for all its apparent insignificance, feeling a bit miffed occupies a special place in the British psyche.

To feel a bit miffed is to be a little put out, somewhat offended. It happens when we temporarily lose our place in the pecking order—as when we are expecting a nice present and find we’ve been palmed off with a hand-me-down, or when some teasing goes awry and we are left feeling INSULTED, or a conversation turns contentious and INDIGNATION ensues. Miffed, a bit, feels serious, albeit temporarily: but to an outsider, the miffee, lips pursed and expression haughty, just looks a bit silly.

In fact, feeling miffed has an impressive family tree that can be traced back to at least the seventeenth century, when having a “mifty” or “miffy” manner was to appear peevish or put out. Although it might seem quaint, feeling miffed should be acknowledged for its subtle depths: on the outside, a crust of bristling defensiveness; inside, layers of bamboozlement and the confusion of DISAPPOINTMENT. Most of all, it is blessed with what the French deconstructionists call jouissance, a playful ambiguity of meaning that leaves the reader plenty of room for interpretation. Because, while the British may say they feel “a bit miffed, actually,” they may in fact mean that they are extremely miffed indeed.