Friday, 7 June 2013


Smiling, Siblings, Peaceful, Calm, Happy, Friends,
Sisterly togetherness: Me with my little sister celebrating years of pent-up bicker-free bliss



Verb. Middle English.
[Origin unknown]

1. verb intrans Skirmish, fight. ME

2. verb trans. Attack with repeated strokes. Long obsolete excluding dialect. ME

3. verb intrans. Quarrel, wrangle, squabble. L15

4. verb intrans. Flash, gleam, quiver, glisten. poetical. M7

5A. verb intrans.  Make any repeated noisy action, as the showering of blows, the flowing of a stream over a stony channel, the pattering of rain, etc. M18

5B. verb intrans. Make a short rapid run (describing the pounding of the feet). Scottish. L18

Favorite quote to illustrate bickering:
 "How are we supposed to get a sisterly togetherness picture if you keep being such a jerk?"
Spoken by a friend of mine to her sister, during the holiday season

The cardinal rule for sisterly interactions in my house growing up was an absolute prohibition on bickering. The nuances of this rule meant that disagreements were only permitted if they maintained a carefully cultivated sense of respect and rationality. Arguments were cut short as soon as they slipped into an arena that could be labeled squabbling, quarrelling, or wrangling. I grew up in a universe devoid of “I know you are but what am I” and “but she started it.”
There’s a pettiness implicit in bickering that brings to mind an argument about who should have been responsible for reminding the other party to bring a raincoat, or who last put out the garbage. Bickering is rarely something you do with a stranger (although perhaps grammatical corrections on YouTube comments come close), but is rather the realm of siblings, lovers, and roommates - people dear to your heart for whom prolonged proximity eliminates the benefit of the doubt.
As I've gotten older, I've grown to quite enjoy confrontations in certain circumstances. I love a good debate, frequently engaged in no-win political discussions, and even enjoy a good banter session whose ultimate goal is just to disagree creatively. I don’t know if this argumentative pleasure comes from all those years of not taking petty jabs at the younger sister, or if confrontation is just part of my nature.
In any event, I steer clear of bickering. No one wins in a “yeah-huh, nuh-uh” kind of argument.

Bicker, Argue, Right, Wrong, Directions, Lost
Uh-oh. Someone forgot to remind the other one of that thing they were supposed to remember not to forget.
(photo by Instant Vantage)


  1. My brother and I were forced to scrap the principal whereby 'disagreements were only permitted if they maintained a carefully cultivated sense of respect and rationality' because waiting for the ruling from the supreme court on each insult significantly postponed the bit where we could try to remove each other's spleens with each other's crayons.


  2. My favorite "bicker" quote is from Python's "Holy Grail": "Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who!"

    1. *sigh* I keep being shown up by people's cultural references - I'm ashamed to say that I have *never* seen The Holy Grail. Me! An Englishman! It's quite the scandal! : o )

    2. That really is fairly shocking. It is a cultural touchstone of no small import.

      The first time I saw it, I laughed like I don't remember ever laughing before.

      Nowadays it and the rest of the Python oeuvre has gotten thoroughly worn out, and references to it are almost instantly tiresome, but I think one should at least be able to recognize them.