There are many words in the English language which seem like they ought to have an opposite form, but do not. At least not in common usage. Rather like the predictions of the theory of supersymmetry, which posits that each particle in the Standard Model has a partner particle, so we might conjure the missing partner words for those in our Standard Dictionary. Why, for instance, can we be disgruntled, yet never have the chance to be gruntled? Why can we postpone a meeting, but not prepone it for our convenience? Why can we can feel disappointed about something, yet we aren’t allowed to feel appointed when fortune shines? This alarming asymmetry in the English language needs immediate correction and, without further ado, I should like to offer up some linguistic opportunities which have so far gone begging, and present some sample passages displaying their possible usage.
The English language, of course, is a collaborative exercise and I must extend my thanks to those friends who contributed further suggestions on Facebook and elsewhere.
Appointed (adj) – Feeling pleased about an outcome.
“I felt most appointed when I heard the good news.”
Clare (v.) – To hold back information.
“I’m not saying a word. I have everything to clare.”
Combobulate (v.) – to confidently clarify an otherwise confusing situation.
“His answer was most satisfying, positively combobulating.”
Concert (v.) – To settle or improve composure.
“His reassuring expression was most concerting, and I entered the meeting with great confidence.”
Dain (v. n.) – to show high regard; an expression or feeling of high regard.
“He greeted the lord with a great show of respect; exhibiting a somewhat over-formal air of dain.”
Downset (adj.) – Feeling happy, above expectation; pleased.
“Yes, at first I was unhappy, but when I realised the truth I was pretty downset.”
Dulating – to have a flat form or outline.
“The Nullarbor Plain is a dulating landscape, flat as a tack.”
Gruntled – satisfied, pleased.
“After dinner I felt completely content, most gruntled indeed.”
Gurgitate – to swallow
“Doctors recommend chewing thoroughly before gurgitating.”
Gust (v, n) – to cause someone to feel attraction or approval. A feeling of strong approval.
“The smell coming from the kitchen was gorgeous; a wonderful, gusting aroma of cumin and turmeric.” “Her look of gust upon seeing how clean the bathroom was, was heart-warming.”
Mantle (v.) – to put together.
“I bought a new cupboard from Ikea, and now have to mantle it.”
Member – (v.) To replace the detached limbs of something / someone. To bring separate parts together.
“In 1871 the various Germanic states were membered into a single entity.”
Posable (adj.) – Not intended to be thrown away after use. Long-lasting, durable.
“The market in posable water bottles has flourished in recent years.”
Prepone (v.) – cause or arrange for something to take place at an earlier time than scheduled.
“The 1530 meeting has been pre-poned to 1300. Lunch will be provided.”
Prosequences (n, pl.) – the positive effects or results of an action.
“There are many significant prosequences from early intervention.”
Rupt – (v.) To bring into a state of order and array.
“Amidst the chaos, John managed to rupt most of the guests and get the game underway.”
Shevelled (adj.) – Tidy, ordered, neat.
“You scrub up well – you look very shevelled indeed.”
Sipate (v.) – Appear or cause to appear.
“It was as though he sipated out of thin air. One minute the room was empty, then, before I could say Jove, Pandarr Zen’Awri was standing before me!”
Tant (adj.) – Nearby, close.
“It’s very tant, in fact, just around the corner.”
Tort (v.) – Pull or twist into shape. Give a true account of…
“With careful hammering, the front fender was torted back into shape.”
Turbing (adj.) – removing anxiety, reassuring.
“The good news was very turbing and I was finally able to sleep that night.”
There are, of course, countless other words with a form that hints at an opposite partner, but it would be far too exhaustive to attempt to detail them here. This contrariness might also extend into common expressions and exclamations where opposite meanings have the potential to be at the very least mildly amusing, and, at worst, utterly baffling. Take the expression “a pain in the arse.” Could we not describe someone as a real “Joy in the arse”? It’s all very well to say “Up yours!” and though “Down yours!” might seem counterintuitive, it is strangely absent from our language. “Fuck me dead!” is often used to show surprise or incredulity, and it can used both positively and negatively, yet surely its super-partner “Fuck me alive” could do with the occasional airing. Finally, there are many colourful colloquialisms the world over which could be even more colourful and confusing for foreign tourists were they to be inverted. The Australian expression “Don’t come the raw prawn with me,” which, in effect, means “don’t try to swindle me,” could be even more baffling were it mirrored with “You’re welcome to come the cooked prawn with me.” The rest I shall leave to your own devices and imagination, which I’m sure is sufficiently ripe to entertain thousands more such examples.