Thinkstock
Thinkstock

12 Lonely Negative Words

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Are you disgusted, disgruntled and disheveled? Well, unfortunately you’re never going to be gusted, gruntled or sheveled.  Disgusted, disgruntled and disheveled are what you might call “lonely negatives.” They’re negative words whose positive partners have vanished or never existed in the first place.

1. Disgust

(Via French or Italian, from Latin dis- ‘expressing reversal’ + gustāre ‘to taste.’)

English adopted only the negative version, leaving us without the useful expression, ”That gusts me.”

2. Disheveled

(From the late Middle English word, now obsolete, 'dishevely,' which derives from Old French deschevelé, past participle of descheveler, based on chevel, 'hair,' from Latin capillus. Originally it meant 'having the hair uncovered' and later it referred to the hair itself, hanging loose, and so messy or untidy.)

You can be disheveled without ever being “sheveled.” It’s pronounced /di-SHEH-vuhld/, not as you sometimes hear it, /dis-HEH-vuhld/.

3. Inscrutable

(From late Latin in- ‘not’ + scrūtārī ‘to search or examine thoroughly’ + -able. Scrūtārī comes from scrūta)

Inscrutable refers to "something that cannot be searched into or found out by searching; unfathomable, entirely mysterious." But you’ll search harder to find the word scrutable; it’s used mostly in opposition to inscrutable.

4. Ineffable

(Via French from Latin in- ‘not’  + effāri ‘to utter’)

Ineffable—something "that cannot be expressed or described in language"—can breathe a lonely wordless sigh. Its partner doesn’t come around much any more. Effable once meant "sounds or letters, etc. that can be pronounced." It is used only rarely to mean "that which can be, or may lawfully be, expressed or described in words," or as a snickery double entendre:

She:  Are you dumping me? What went wrong?
He: I can’t explain. It’s ineffable.
She: Are you saying I’m not f—able?

5. Disappoint

Disappoint was once was the negative of appoint. It meant "to undo the appointment of; to deprive of an appointment, office, or possession; to dispossess, deprive." It was used that way in 1489, but by 1513, it was stretched to its present meaning: "to frustrate the expectation or desire of (a person)." You wouldn’t know the two words were once partners.

6. Indelible

(From the Latin indēlēbilis, from in- ‘not,’ dēlēredelete’ and -ble ‘be able.’)

You know about indelible ink and indelible memories, but when have you heard of anything being “delible”? During the 17th and 18th centuries the word delible, meaning "capable of being rubbed out or effaced" was used, but it’s gone without a trace. It was delible.

7. Impeccable

(From late Latin impeccābilis, from im- ‘not’ + peccāre, ‘to sin.’)

Although impeccable now means "adhering to the highest standards" and we speak of impeccable manners or taste, originally it meant "not capable of or liable to sin." These days, peccable is used only facetiously, as in this 1992 quote from the New York Times: “Its credentials are about as impeccable as you can find in the peccable atmosphere of Hollywood.”

8. Indolent

(From late Latin indolent, from in- ‘not’ + dolere, ‘suffer or give pain.’)

When it entered English in the 17th century, indolent meant "causing no pain." Doctors spoke of an indolent tumor or ulcer. Maybe some folks misinterpreted the meaning as "inactive," but somehow in the 18th century, indolent gained its current meaning in reference to people: "lazy or idle." The word dolent, meaning "sorrowful or grieving," existed for a few centuries, but it’s obsolete now and never meant the opposite of present-day indolent.

9. Indefatigable

(Via French, from Latin in- ‘not’ + dēfatīgāre ‘to wear out’ + –ble ‘able to’)

An indefatigable person is "untiring; incapable of being wearied." The word defatigable, "capable of being wearied," exists, but it’s too beat to show up very much, leaving indefatigable pretty lonely.  

10. Incessant

(Via Old French, from late Latin in- 'not’ + cessant- ‘ceasing’)

Incessant refers to something unpleasant that continues without pause or interruption. Cessant was around briefly in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it has ceased to appear these days.

11. Reckless

(From the Old English reccelēas, from the Germanic base reck, an archaic word meaning ‘care.’)

Reckless describes a person or the actions of a person who acts without thinking or caring about the consequences. There never was a word like reckful to serve as a positive counterpart to reckless, but reckless people have their fill of wrecks.

12. Disgruntled

Disgruntled is a ringer. This time the prefix “dis-“ is not a negative, but an intensifier. If you’re disgruntled you’re extremely gruntled. And what, pray tell, does it mean to be gruntled? “Gruntle” was a diminutive of “grunt,” dating from around 1400, meaning "to utter a little or low grunt." Later it came to mean "to grumble or complain."

Sources: OED [Oxford English Dictionary] Online, New Oxford American Dictionary (Second Ed.), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fifth ed.)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
travel
Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
iStock
iStock

If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
15 Dad Facts for Father's Day
iStock
iStock

Gather 'round the grill and toast Dad for Father's Day—the national holiday so awesome that Americans have celebrated it for more than a century. Here are 15 Dad facts you can wow him with today.

1. Halsey Taylor invented the drinking fountain in 1912 as a tribute to his father, who succumbed to typhoid fever after drinking from a contaminated public water supply in 1896.

2. George Washington, the celebrated father of our country, had no children of his own. A 2004 study suggested that a type of tuberculosis that Washington contracted in childhood may have rendered him sterile. He did adopt the two children from Martha Custis's first marriage.

3. In Thailand, the king's birthday also serves as National Father's Day. The celebration includes fireworks, speeches, and acts of charity and honor—the most distinct being the donation of blood and the liberation of captive animals.

4. In 1950, after a Washington Post music critic gave Harry Truman's daughter Margaret's concert a negative review, the president came out swinging: "Some day I hope to meet you," he wrote. "When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!"

5. A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh for his son, Christopher Robin. Pooh was based on Robin's teddy bear, Edward, a gift Christopher had received for his first birthday, and on their father/son visits to the London Zoo, where the bear named Winnie was Christopher's favorite. Pooh comes from the name of Christopher's pet swan.

6. Kurt Vonnegut was (for a short time) Geraldo Rivera's father-in-law. Rivera's marriage to Edith Vonnegut ended in 1974 because of his womanizing. Her ever-protective father was quoted as saying, "If I see Gerry again, I'll spit in his face." He also included an unflattering character named Jerry Rivers (a chauffeur) in a few of his books.

7. Andre Agassi's father represented Iran in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics as a boxer.

8. Charlemagne, the 8th-century king of the Franks, united much of Western Europe through military campaigns and has been called the "king and father of Europe" [PDF]. Charlemagne was also a devoted dad to about 18 children, and today, most Europeans may be able to claim Charlemagne as their ancestor.

9. The voice of Papa Smurf, Don Messick, also provided the voice of Scooby-Doo, Ranger Smith on Yogi Bear, and Astro and RUDI on The Jetsons.

10. In 2001, Yuri Usachev, cosmonaut and commander of the International Space Station, received a talking picture frame from his 12-year-old daughter while in orbit. The gift was made possible by RadioShack, which filmed the presentation of the gift for a TV commercial.

11. The only father-daughter collaboration to hit the top spot on the Billboard pop music chart was the 1967 hit single "Something Stupid" by Frank & Nancy Sinatra.

12. In the underwater world of the seahorse, it's the male that gets to carry the eggs and birth the babies.

13. If show creator/producer Sherwood Schwartz had gotten his way, Gene Hackman would have portrayed the role of father Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.

14. The Stevie Wonder song "Isn't She Lovely" is about his newborn daughter, Aisha. If you listen closely, you can hear Aisha crying during the song.

15. Dick Hoyt has pushed and pulled his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, through hundreds of marathons and triathlons. Rick cannot speak, but using a custom-designed computer he has been able to communicate. They ran their first five-mile race together when Rick was in high school. When they were done, Rick sent his father this message: "Dad, when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!"

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios