Thursday, May 19, 2011
The most curious one to me is the prefix dis-. According to the rules, the prefix dis- denotes the negation, removal or expulsion of the verb to which it is attached. This can be clearly seen in such words as disappear, disclaim or discolor.
But occasionally the prefix attaches to a verb that, standing alone, would not have an opposite meaning. We have all heard of disgruntled postal workers, but what about the thousands of gruntled postal workers? If you distort something, you twist it, but a tort is a legal term for a wrongful act. If I discard something by accident, and then get it back, do I card it? No I retrieve it, which makes me wonder when I trieved it in the first place. Dissemination seems identical to semination to me. It is easy to disparage someone, but as far as I can tell impossible to parage someone. If I am saddened at something, I may be in dismay. When I am glad, I should say I am in may!
My goal here is not to suade you that English is a ciplined language, nor that we should dain it without question. I just want to make the point that proper usage is not always the aster we think it is. To think so would be showing real cernment.