Sunday, August 28, 2005

Word Game

Calling on English experts!

Predictable - UnPredictable

You are said to be "predictable," if you are a bore completely devoid of creativity and prone to repetitiveness. You bore people to tears.

Then again, you don't want to be known to be "unpredictable" either. That means you are unstable and even dangerous because of your frequent outbursts.

So either way it is a bad thing although for personal safety, most of us would choose to be around predictable people over unpredictable psychopaths. Bring a book to read.

Can you think of other pairs of words in which both carry negative connotations? It almost seems like these two words are unrelated to each other even though they are just one prefix apart.


At August 28, 2005 12:11 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

Since you asked... :)

I think your confusion is in your interpretation of the words, your own judgements of whether predictability or unpredictability is good or bad, rather than the actual definitions of the words.

Predictable means able to be predicted. If you are predictable, I can count on you to say a certain thing, do a certain thing, behave a certain way in a certain situation. I can predict - foretell - what you will do.

Unpredictable means I cannot foretell what you will do, because you are erratic, will do different things in the same situation, can not be counted upon to behave a certain way.

The prefix un- means the not. Other prefixes that mean not are in, non and im.

possible / impossible
plausible / implausible
acceptable / unacceptable

Unless I've completely misunderstood your question, in which case, never mind.

At August 28, 2005 12:14 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Actually that is a good point. There are the actual definitions, and then I am placing value on those words and have decided that they are both bad.

At August 28, 2005 12:33 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

So I know the technical definitions of the words and how the prefixes work.

My question is, can you think of other pairs in which both words are generally considered negative?

I know most of them depend on the context, but it seems to me that both predictable and unpredictable are almost alway negative.

"You are so predictable"
"You are so unpredictable"

I don't think I want to hear either.

At August 28, 2005 12:58 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

I don't mean to nitpick. But I truly don't think both words are negative.

In certain circumstances, being predictable is excellent. Predictability can mean reliability. If you're a child, you want your parents to be predictable. My dogs appreciate predictability.

And being unpredictable can be fun. Jokes are funny because they are unpredictable. It doesn't have to mean psychopathic.

So having said that, let me see if I can think of a pair of words that have opposite meaning, both with negative connotations.

Off to think.

At August 28, 2005 1:26 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

I got it!

Republican and Democrat.


One of my favorite bumperstickers reads:

Republicans pit man against man.
Democrats do just the opposite.

At August 28, 2005 1:43 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

LOL! That is excellent!

Come to think of it, one of my former roommates was both.

His "humor" was really predictable (can't think of too many things worse than being around a humorless guy with such a high opinion of his own humor), and yet he was given to very frequent and unpredictable outbursts with no provocation whatsoever.

At August 28, 2005 3:10 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

Ew, sounds like a real charmer.

At August 29, 2005 8:38 AM, Blogger California Fats said...

While true that both are seen as a bad thing, lets be honest, I'd much rather hang out with the unpredictable guy. He's definately more fun.

At August 30, 2005 12:37 PM, Blogger DaveShack said...

One contender might be describing a person as "interesting" or "uninteresting." The former is often used as a euphemism for less neutral words like "psycho" or "unpleasantly eccentric" but "uninteresting" is surely not an adjective to pursue either.

How about calling someone "hinged"? Or maybe "totally hinged." I know, it means sane, but someone might think otherwise. And of course "unhinged" speaks for itself.

At August 30, 2005 12:41 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

Hmmm, the interesting/uninteresting pair is very similar to the predictable/unpredictable pair.

At September 02, 2005 2:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dating someone unpredictable may be fun but when it comes time to marriage, get the predictable one. :)

Hello David.
how about worldly and unwordly? christanese but still....

When I was in school, I wanted to be worldly which meant well rounded in education...when I was a christian; don't get caught being worldly.

and if you are unworldly, that means you are either stupid OR off the top weird...

so don't get caught being worldly or unwordly....


At September 02, 2005 4:24 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

That is an excellent one, Jane. I wondered about that myself.


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