Stemming from an edit and comments from a question I asked in SciFi.

Which one sounds more natural ? By "natural" I mean the most plausible to appear in a conversation. Does it depends on location ? Is it a British/American feeling thing ?

What is Lex's beef with Superman?


What is Lex's grief against Superman?

Is there any other word I didn't think of that would correctly translate Lex Luthor's feelings towards Superman ?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Drew, Dan Bron, jimm101, curiousdannii, NVZ Apr 7 '16 at 6:46

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    I would say "grudge against". "beef", meaning dispute, is a hip-hop (as far as i know) term which has entered the mainstream to some degree but when used by non-urban, non-african-americans tends to sound a bit silly. – Max Williams Apr 6 '16 at 9:45
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    @MaxWilliams beef as grievance is simply informal. A suburban anglo-saxian must always use formal language? – candied_orange Apr 6 '16 at 10:18
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    @Max Williams: the OED says that Americans have been using beef as slang for grievance since 1900, and that it was used by Damon Runyon and P.G. Wodehouse who, as far as I know, didn't rap. – Peter Shor Apr 6 '16 at 10:24
  • Define "natural". – Drew Apr 6 '16 at 14:45
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    @MaxWilliams I agree with the origin, I don't agree that it sounds silly when used by non-blacks. I think it sounds silly whether the person using the term is black or white. – Pharap Apr 11 '16 at 21:40

"Beef with" remains very informal (and mostly American), but may be fine in your context.

I have never heard "grief" used in this way. In its literal use it can be countable ("I have many griefs" = "many things that I grieve for") though it is usually not; but in its transferred sense of "trouble", I have only heard is as uncontable: "I gave him grief about this".

As CandiedOrange says, I think you mean "grievance"; but that is a rather formal word. Max Williams' suggestion of "grudge" is the best, I think.

  • I referred to this expression (though as "give someone grief", which I think is more common in this meaning than "cause someone grief", @Pharap – Colin Fine Apr 11 '16 at 21:44

Although "beef" in the colloquial sense you describe is certainly at home among the sort of palookas who might be exploring Lex Luthor's varied grievances against the Man of Steel, the expression is (surprisingly) not 20th C American.

Worldwide Words, a delightful collation of etymological goodies, traces the expression to England in 1725, when one might have heard miscreants (such as Luthor's ancestors) complaining that bystanders “cry beef upon us: they have discover’d us and are in Pursuit of us."

The implication is that to shout "beef!" - or, perhaps to speak of shouting "beef," was originally a kind of rhyming slang for "[stop] thief!"

The article goes on to suggest that the expression evolved into a cry of alarm, thence to a protestation of grievance, and that this figurative "beef" traveled with emigrants to Australia (who raised a lot of beef both with and for their former homeland) before returning and, we presume, crossing the Herring Pond to where Americans in general (not only readers of D.C. Comics) had been waiting to put it to good use.

  • With all that said, I like (and upvote) Colin Fine's answer! – Rob_Ster Apr 6 '16 at 16:55
  • And I yours, similarly! – Colin Fine Apr 6 '16 at 17:52

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