April 1, 2005


yes, at some time or another we have all oh-so-cleverly wondered “you can be disgruntled, but can you just be gruntled?” thus generating a pity laugh from our friends who have either already wondered the same thing themselves or don’t care. of course, if you took the time to look it up you would find that indeed you can simply be gruntled and that it means what it ought to. same the same goes for ‘overwhelmed’ (a capsized boat has been whelmed, they use it in the end of moby dick) and ‘nonplussed.’ somehow ‘uncouth’ has a non-prefix form ‘couth’ for both the usual “crude/sophisticated” connotation and the archaic “known/familiar” one. the ‘tid’ of ‘tidbit’ fame is its own word as well but for some reason it means soft or nice.

there is also a frequently used cosmology term: ‘recombination,’ describing the era of the early universe when all of the electrons and protons first combined to make hydrogen. first. how we get recombination out of this instead of combination i’ve got no clue. i’ve even asked a few professors, and nobody else does either. there is a better explanation for why there are positrons (anti-matter electrons) but we don’t call regular electrons ‘negatrons.’ well, there really are negatrons. the word was coined simultaneously with ‘positron’ in the same 1933 paper but never caught on.

the only words that really bother me in not having non-prefix forms are ones like ‘oblivious’ and ‘obvious’ and 'object.' in latin ‘ob-’ means “toward, in front of, or on account of.” like the way the head of a coin is the ‘obverse’ and the tail is the 'reverse.' take away the ob- however and you've got nothing. not even the oed has anything on the non-obs. some of them work with a re- instead, but not all. this is unusual, since even if a word is totally archaic it usually exists simply as an opposite to whatever the well-known term is. i suppose that ob- words aren’t like the rest since ob- is just one of those latin things that romans liked to stick on the front of stuff just to sound cool, but it still bothers me. someday i will become a lexicographer and use the political clout that surely comes with such a job to hold senate hearings on this. thus exposing the ones responsible to public scandal and disrepute, and at long last enshrining 'livious' and 'edience' in our national vocabulary.


sarah gilbert , cafemama said...

I search for 'livious,' and I found you. thanks for your excellent lexigraphical note. I shall go forth and insert the words "tid," "cooth," and "livious" into my writings on the internet, and we shall see what happens.