Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Word Game II

The following prefixes mean "not." They work like the negative sign in mathematics.

- in (conspicuous/inconspicuous, evitable/inevitable)
- im (possible/impossible, movable/immovable)
- un (acceptable/unacceptable, interesting/uninteresting )
- dis (engaged/disengaged, connect/disconnect)
- non (smoking/non-smoking)

These are the ones off the top of my head right now.

So we know that the prefix in means "not," but how would you explain the following pairs?

- flammable/inflammable.

- valuable/invaluable

When you see a warning sign that says, "inflammable", it means it is flammable, not not flammable. If it says, "flammable", it means inflammable, not not inflammable.

Got it?

Can you think of more words where adding a prefix which usually means not does not not not create the opposite meaning and the prefix does not mean not?

I love what Galvanize Choas says in her inaugural posting about words.

Have you ever noticed that words are astonishingly like people? Every person is so different and unique; just like words. Words have characters, almost like personalities. They shift (as people do) their conduct with their company.

Our minds are trying to give word-form to the world surrounding us. We are endlessly studying, seeking for just the right word to use. We judge people, as we do words. They may not be the right shape or size. They may say too much or too little. They are too bold or too weak, too cruel or too kind. Acquiring a vocabulary can help us find the missing pieces to the puzzle.


At August 31, 2005 8:43 PM, Blogger American Girl said...

You sure are on a word kick!

At September 05, 2005 6:15 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

Great post, David! There is a Simpsons episode where someone (can't think of what character it is) lights a cigarette and makes an oxygen tank blow up. He says, "Inflammable means flammable?? Who knew??? What a crazy language!!"

I have another for you.

When people say something is "unraveling", they usually mean it is falling apart - either literally, like a sweater, or figuratively, like... the country. :)

But raveling actually means falling apart. When a sweater is coming apart, it is raveling.

So unraveling would mean... coming together?

The words are so confused, that over time, raveling and unraveling have come to mean the same thing! It's true, you can look it up.

At September 05, 2005 6:16 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

Speaking of words, are you still reading TGOW?

At September 05, 2005 6:32 PM, Blogger David Cho said...


That is excellent. I've heard it used that way, but escaped my radar screen. I guess since once something is unraveled, it can rarely be put together (the laws of thermodynamics .. from order to disorder :)), unravel means ravel.

Other pairs I found through corresponding with a friend who is a linguist.


Thanks for mentioning TGOW. Got side tracked, and ended up reading other things. Will get back to it this week. Sigh. Thanks for holding me accountable.

At September 09, 2005 10:04 PM, Anonymous jane said...

You need a new post! I keep coming here and it is that same one. Are you alright or just really busy?

miss talking with you- well, typing through the net-

At September 10, 2005 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wasn't holding you accountable, just asking! There's enough pressure in life - read when and what you want, I say.

Good words, too. I have to look some of those up.

L-girl on iPAQ

At September 10, 2005 5:55 PM, Blogger jane said...

hey, are you still around?


Post a Comment

<< Home