Choose the right word
brusque, blunt, bluff, curt, gruff, surly
Brusque, which comes from an Italian word meaning rude, describes an abruptness of speech or manner that is not necessarily meant to be rude ( a brusque handshake; a brusque reply). Curt is more deliberately unfriendly, suggesting brevity and coldness of manner ( a curt dismissal). There's nothing wrong with being blunt, although it implies an honesty and directness that can border on tactlessness ( a blunt reply to his question about where the money went). Someone who is bluff is usually more likable, possessing a frank, hearty manner that may be a little too outspoken but is seldom offensive ( a bluff man who rarely minced words). Exhibiting gruff or surly behavior will not win friends, since both words suggest bad temper if not rudeness. But gruff is used to describe a rough or grouchy disposition and, like bluff, is applied more often to a man. Anyone who has had to deal with an overworked store clerk while shopping during the holidays knows the meaning of surly, which is worse than gruff. It describes not only a sour disposition but an outright hostility toward people, and it can apply to someone of either sex ( that surly woman at the customer service desk; he became more surly as the day dragged on).