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A secondary meaning of crossgrained is

"Perverse; untractable; contrary; difficult to deal with. (eg) She was none of your crossgrained, termagant, scolding jades. - Arbuthnot."

What is the etymology of this usage, and when was the word first so used?

Note, crossgrained most commonly means "Having the grain or fibers run diagonally, or more or less transversely and irregularly, so as to interfere with splitting or planing". That this is by far the most-common usage of the word can be seen via examples for crossgrained and cross grained from ngrams. ngrams also shows that the form crossgrained is used far more often than either of the forms cross grained or cross-grained; but neither wiktionary nor etymonline includes crossgrained.

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Edit 1: added "when was the word first so used?" question –  jwpat7 Feb 3 '12 at 8:51
    
See also thwart. –  Hugo Feb 3 '12 at 12:39
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

The primary definition from the same source explains the metaphorical use as shown in the secondary.

"Having the grain or fibers run diagonally, or more or less transversely and irregularly, so as to interfere with splitting or planing."

"If the stuff proves crossgrained, . . . then you must turn your stuff to plane it the contrary way."

Both senses boil down to "difficult to deal with".


[see also:]
cross-grained
Adjective

(of timber) Having an irregular rather than a parallel grain.
(by extension) Difficult to deal with; contrary or troublesome.

Wiktionary defines the second meaning as 'by extension' if the basic sense.


[Edit-2] re: "and when was the word first so used?"

"The new encyclopædia; or, Universal dictionary of arts and sciences" (Google eBook) 1807 records: 2. Perverse; troublesome; vexatious.
It cites Hudibras, L'Estrange, apart from Arbuthnot (John Bull)

Arbuthnot (c1750,) seems to be the most typically cited reference for the figurative use of cross(-)grained. So we may infer that to be the earliest.

However, this 1734 reference is also interesting

What a crossgrained piece is man ? He will eat when he should not, and he will not eat when he should. When God said, " Eat not of this forbidden fruit," — then he will be sure to pearls before swine," Matt. vii. 6.

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+1. Shame the 1734 is only in snippet view and cannot be verified, as the printing looks modern. But it's probably right, I found a later 1741 edition of the same book (see the seventh line up from the end page 368). –  Hugo Feb 3 '12 at 12:36
    
And it's also in Samuel Johnson's 1768 A Dictionary of the English language: CHURLISH. a. ... 3. Unpliant; crossgrained; unmanageable.* –  Hugo Feb 3 '12 at 12:53
    
"The door was battle-ax proof. It was laid together in two plies of wood, the grain of one ply being horizontal and of the other vertical, so that no ax could split it". (White, T.H. Mistress Masham's Repose.) –  MετάEd Feb 3 '12 at 15:42
    
But, @MetaEd , we are seeking the earliest metaphorical, not the literal, usage. –  Kris Feb 4 '12 at 4:03
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@Hugo, Kris - Regarding "Arbuthnot (c1750,) seems to be the most typically cited...", Arbuthnot lived 1667-1735, and his quote is from 1712 in The History of John Bull, in collaboration with Jonathan Swift; also see 1925 reprint. –  jwpat7 Feb 23 '12 at 18:50
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