Allegorical Nonsense

An allegory. Nonsense. Put them together. Okay, not really.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Words that seem like they shouldn't exist

Alright class, today we are looking at words that seem like they shouldn't exist.

Words that look like they've got too many bits
Ungainlily? Or ungainlyly? I'm all for the second one.
In the same vein, "slyly". "Slily"? Silly.
In Hebrew: חמימים. As in, "דברים חמימים" ("warm things") (or is it "חמימיים"? Even better!)

Words that mean the opposite of themselves, or almost do
Sanction. Are you approving it? Or imposing penalties on it?
Proscribe. Just too close to "prescribe".

To be continued.



At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Simon Holloway said...

How about words that look like their own opposite but are actually synonyms? Like flammable vs inflammable.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I was going to say that I don't think there are any other examples of such word pairs, but I thought I'd check myself with a Google search, and came up with this pearler from

'Other words where an apparently negative prefix has little
effect on the meaning are: "to (dis)annul", "to (de)bone", "to
(un)bare", "to (un)loose", and "to (un)ravel".'

Um ... come to think of it, I don't think there are other examples of such word pairs. To "debone" means the same as to "bone"??! Not in my primary school.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger Miss Worldwide said...

What about, in hebrew, words that look almost the same (2 out of 3 letters in the root) AND mean almost the same? Can't think of any examples now, but I came across loads of them. I'll come back with examples later. Any explanations?

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Welcome, Miss Worldwide.

Yours is a question for Dave at Balashon:

I chatted with him on his blog at some point last year about just such words, but now I can't for the life of me remember examples. I'm going to sleep on it (it won't help, but I'm tired).

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Miss Worldwide said...

Just remembered one of the 1st cases I ever came across: למכור and מחיר
"Price" and "to sell": any logical mind would think they definitely have the same root, but nooooooo! That would be too easy!
That's why I love hebrew...

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Joel Nothman said...

Not sure about מחיר and מכר... But there are hundreds of more certain examples, such as צעק and זעק; also זעק and זעם; זעם and זעף...

Or נשם, נשף, נשב.


At 4:48 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

And what about homonyms like למכור ("to sell") and מכור ("addicted")? Or maybe they really are related (those who are addicted have "sold" a little bit of themselves)?


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