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12 Lonely Negative Words

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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.)

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11 Things You Didn't Know About Dolly Parton
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. YOU WON'T FIND HER ON A DOLLYWOOD ROLLER COASTER.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. SHE ENTERED A DOLLY PARTON LOOK-A-LIKE CONTEST—AND LOST.


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Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. SHE SPENT A FORTUNE TO RECREATE HER CHILDHOOD HOME.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. SHE WON'T APOLOGIZE FOR RHINESTONE.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. SHE IS MILEY CYRUS'S GODMOTHER, SORT OF.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. SHE RECEIVED DEATH THREATS FROM THE KU KLUX KLAN.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
Getty Images

In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBT members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted, "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. TO PROMOTE LITERACY, SHE STARTED HER OWN "LIBRARY."

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. PARTON'S HOMETOWN HAS A STATUE IN HER HONOR.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. THE CLONED SHEEP DOLLY WAS NAMED AFTER PARTON.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. SHE TURNED DOWN ELVIS.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. SHE JUST EARNED TWO GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

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