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Greg W
19-05-2008, 04:19:05
I was listening to a song by Powderfinger the other day (which will probably mean nothing to anyone outside Oz), and a line from the song got me:
"with your ingenuine fears and your ingeniune ways"

And my instant thought was that ingenuine didn't sound right. But then I couldn't think of a prefix that did sound right, and I was at work and driving at the time, so I couldn't look it up. And a search on dictionary.com that I did just now says that it doesn't exist.

Back when I heard it, it got me to thinking about prefixes in english that make the word mean the opposite of what it originally meant, and how many of them we have, and how bloody hard it must be for someone learning the language to get them right.

In
As in indefinable, indestructible

Im
As in impolite, implausible, impossible

Un
As in untenable, unintelligent

A
As in atypical

Anti
As in anticlimax

Dis
As in disappear, disjointed

And then there's words like equal, whose opposite is unequal. However the opposite for equality is inequality. :clueless:

Is there actually a rule for this, or did we (the English speaking world) just make this stuff up as we went?

And aside from anything else, what is the correct prefix for genuine? Ungenuine? Disgenuine? Ir isn't there one? And if so, why not?

Stupid bloody language. :bash:

Immortal Wombat
19-05-2008, 06:06:53
The OED has entries for ingenuine and ungenuine. (though it has two for ingenuine, one meaning "not genuine", one meaning "genuine") Ingenuine doesn't have any citations after the seventeenth century, ungenuine has been used more recently, but it's still marked as rare.

Immortal Wombat
19-05-2008, 06:18:29
There are rules. Well, more like guidelines.

in-, im-, un- and a- are all more or less the same (and are etymologically cognate, coming, eventually, from the same indo-european root). In- and im- come to English from Latin (via French), un- is a Germanic root found in Old English (via Flemish and Teuton, etc), a- is from the Greek.

Anti- is also from the Greek. Its meaning tends towards "against" or "contradictory", rather than "lack of". Consider the difference in connotation between atheist and anti-theist.

Dis- (and dys-, and bis-) is from the Latin for "two", and often found in places where the meaning is of a concept broken or separated. Dislocated, disjunct, dissected.

The broad expanse of meanings, the creep into completely unrelated areas of speech and the wide range of prefixes available are not, usually, in any case, the fault of English. Even in Latin and old French there were similar issues, and we've inherited them.

Vincent
19-05-2008, 08:13:48
nonsense

Greg W
19-05-2008, 08:29:01
Well, seeing as English is at root a German Language, why did we borrow so many frenchisms and latinisms?

As it is, I don't think that disappear follows your rule. To me it is indeed the opposite of appear (and yes, I know you said they were guidelines).

And I guess what I was asking was is there a rule for which prefix to use in front of which word? That's the part that we seem to have made up as far as I can see.

I say again, stupid bloody language. :bash:

Greg W
19-05-2008, 08:33:55
Oh, and then there's "counter-" as in counter-intelligence, counter-intuitive, etc. But that's hyphenated and also doesn't quite make it mean the opposite.

Funko
19-05-2008, 09:11:28
Originally posted by Greg W
Well, seeing as English is at root a German Language, why did we borrow so many frenchisms and latinisms?

Come on Greg, you know a lot of English history. It's not hard to work out is it?

Immortal Wombat
19-05-2008, 09:40:10
Originally posted by Greg W
And I guess what I was asking was is there a rule for which prefix to use in front of which word? That's the part that we seem to have made up as far as I can see.
Um, yes. I wasn't entirely clear. Basically, because it's a muddle, the rule is "where possible, follow precedent". People have been making it up as they go along for several thousand years. Sometimes there's an etymological justification (greek prefix for greek-derived words etc), other times it's what sounds best. The seventeenth century had a great spate of new un- coinages.

Where there is no precedent, make it up, either carefully, according to which language the word you want to prefix came from, or just according to whichever sounds best. Or alternatively, just use an independent antonym. "Fake", "phony", "counterfeit", "sham", "forged", "feigned", admittedly none really have the same lyrical force.

Funko
19-05-2008, 09:56:46
duh nuhnuhnuh duh nuhnuh nuh nuh. Unholy.

Immortal Wombat
19-05-2008, 10:09:15
They had great lyrics.

MoSe
19-05-2008, 12:35:04
Originally posted by Funko
Come on Greg, you know a lot of English history. It's not hard to work out is it?

it's all the ROMANS' fault

MoSe
19-05-2008, 12:41:13
Originally posted by Immortal Wombat
in-, im-, un- and a- are all more or less the same

im- is nothing else than the euphonical form of in- before p and b



see:
you inpudent inbeciles!

;)

Funko
19-05-2008, 12:42:36
We're so ingrateful to the Romans.

Tau Ceti
19-05-2008, 12:53:54
Grateless!

MoSe
19-05-2008, 13:06:05
Gratlos!
Krautlos!

Greg W
19-05-2008, 13:18:10
Originally posted by Funko
Come on Greg, you know a lot of English history. It's not hard to work out is it? Yes, I was neing facetious.

That's the problem of English. It's the red headed stepchild of languages.

seng
19-05-2008, 14:19:31
It's like this. There were a certain set of rules when the words were made. Then most people forgot the rules, or they changed, and some more words were made up, or borrowed, with different rules. Languages are living things. They don't make a lot of logical sense, and they're full of redundancy, but they do what they're supposed to do.

Did you know that shirt and skirt were the same word originally? One was inherited from Old English, and the other was borrowed from Old Norse, which is why it's pronounced differently.

King_Ghidra
19-05-2008, 15:46:17
Originally posted by Greg W
That's the problem of English. It's the red headed stepchild of languages.

more like the mulatto bastard

Greg W
19-05-2008, 15:54:02
So which out of German, French and Latin was the Horse, and which was the Donkey? :p

Vincent
19-05-2008, 17:23:05
Horsus and Doncus

Dyl Ulenspiegel
19-05-2008, 17:31:03
Ah, c@h and drekkus, again....

Noisy
19-05-2008, 19:59:25
Wibble?