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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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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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