Monthly Archives: September 2022

Negatives Without Positives

The title of this piece sounds quite a bit more depressing than it actually is. 

I am not talking about situations with no upside, but simply words that are in common use and carry a negative prefix (“negatives”), but where their base – the word without the prefix, or the word with what is normally the opposite prefix (“positives”) – has fallen into disuse. As we shall see, the principle can be applied to suffices as well.

To borrow a term from zoology, the type species for Negatives Without Positives (NWPs) might be uncouth: you certainly can be uncouth, but you can’t be couth.

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