Trivia Teaser

Which of these is NOT a type of cloud?


Positive & Negative Terms


By Christine Lovatt

Have you ever noticed that English-speaking people seem to prefer using negative terms to positives? I sometimes wonder why we hear about uncalled-for behaviour but never called-for? Passion may be unbridled but rarely bridled. The hour is far more likely to be ungodly than godly and a character may be unsavoury, but savoury only describes food. 

How often is one described as kempt or shevelled, as opposed to unkempt and dishevelled? Unbeknownst to you, the word beknownst has become obsolete.

We don’t talk about furling the flag, though we can unfurl it all right. Godly, kempt and furl exist in the dictionary but not in our everyday speech. You can’t be consolate, gruntled, gainly or plussed but you can be disconsolate, disgruntled, ungainly or nonplussed.

As a crossword compiler, I dearly wish that ert and ept were words, though inert and inept are frequently used.

After some dictionary research, I’ve found that some of the positive versions used to exist, but we stopped using them, so they fell into disuse.

Our children may be described as unruly, but never ruly. How often do we use the word couth compared to uncouth?

It seems to be part of the critical nature of human beings. It’s much more fun to talk of what isn’t than what is. We don’t describe the good things, only the bad, with the exception of impeccable, which is used more than peccable, meaning liable to sin.

Armed with this knowledge, I plan to see if I can refrain from criticising man, beast or inanimate object for 24 hours. In fact, I’ll be positively persona grata for a day!


Happy puzzling




1 Response to

Positive & Negative Terms

PaddyH said:
June 01, 2008 at 2:01 PM

Maybe it's my pessimistic outlook but I'm positive most people generally think negatively.