My informant, AD, is an undergraduate student at USC who grew up in Glendale, California. Her family immigrated to the United States from the capital of Armenia, Yerevan, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The informant is my girlfriend and we share an apartment together. I asked her if she could share some Armenian folklore with me, and this is one of the pieces that she provided.
AD: “There’s this thing in Armenian that it’s like a pretty common curse that people will say, like my mom says it a lot when she gets angry and stuff, uhm, or like… uhm like y’know something bad happens or whatever. It’s “grogh”, right? And there’s different ways to say it, there’s like “groghi tsotsu” or “groghu kez tani”. Uhm, so “grogh” means “writer”, so when you say that word you are refferring to an old pagan Armenian spirit, the Grogh, who was like a scribe that I think traditionally uh, had the names of people who would ever be born and who were going to die, like their lifespans in a book, so he was a symbol of death right? And he would take people when they died. He was basically an Armenian pagan form of the grim reaper. Uhm, so when people say “grogh” or “groghu kez tani”, that means “let the scribe take you” or “groghi tsotsu” that means “in the arms of the scribe”. So yeah.”
AD: “It’s strange. Like I guess, I dunno, it’s like a common word, it’s like the equivalent of being like “damn”, but it’s like so specific, and like it’s not like “grogh” is also not used in vernacular, it also just means “writer”, like it’s a common word, so it’s strange that it also is a curse.”
I think that this word “grogh” is very similar to the English “damn” in many ways. It’s used in pretty much the same contexts, with the use of the word singularly being often an expression of frustration, or with more words being added to transform it into an insult such as “groghu kez tani” meaning “let the scribe take you” being very similar to the English “damn you to hell”. I think that the etymology of the word itself, originating as the name of a spirit or deity in Armenian paganism and over time becoming a word that simply means “writer” makes sense when compared with other examples of words with similar etymological origins, such as “atlas”, which now just refers to a map but once referred to the titan that held up the sky.