Monday, January 13, 2014

The opposite of inept -- and other words

"Words," he said, "is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me all my life."

 The Big Friendly Giant in Roald Dahl's book, The BFG




I've been feeling a bit inept recently, for various reasons. ("Why, no, it has nothing to do with my Twitter account being hacked!" *coughcough*)

At the same time, I've been working on a poem, and I needed a word that was the opposite of the word echo. I started daydreaming about words like inept. One thing led to another, and I made all kinds of lovely discoveries by Googling "words with no opposite".

Who knew there were so many?

Well, P.G. Wodehouse, for one, who wrote in one of his Jeeves novels, The Code of the Woosters“If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.”

But does anyone actually use words like ruly, kempt, or ane? Is funct the opposite of defunct? Is ept a real word, as opposed to inept? 

Aren't words fun?

And although the poem I'm writing has absolutely nothing to do with this, here's an amusing rhyme attributed to J.H. Parker in 1953 (I found it several places, including here and here):

A Very Descript Man
 by J.H. Parker

I am such a dolent man, 
I eptly work each day;
My acts are all becilic, 
I've just ane things to say.

My nerves are strung, my hair is kempt, 
I'm gusting and I'm span:
I look with dain on everyone 
And am a pudent man.

I travel cognito and make 
A delible impression:
I overcome a slight chalance, 
With gruntled self-possession.

My dignation would be great 
If I should digent be:
I trust my vagance will bring 
An astrous life for me.


What do you think? Would you ever use the word ept? And can anyone help me come up with the opposite of an echo? I'd be eternally grateful.


25 comments:

  1. I scrambled my brain trying to think of an opposite word for "echo". Thanks Joanne! ;)
    I don't know if I will ever use ept, but now I can't get it out of my head. lol

    ~Akoss

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  2. From working with students in my English class, I've found there are way too many words we don't use and way too many we use too much. :-) I don't have an opposite for echo, but you've got me thinking. :-)

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    1. So true, Barbara. I would love to start using some of those little-used words.

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  3. Interesting thinking for a Monday Joanne! If echo is to reverberate, then maybe damper? Here are the "near antonyms from the online dictionary " damp, dampen, deaden, dull, quiet." I also read that there is an urban legend that the quack of a duck does not echo... but then this: "Sound studies have shown that since the 'quack' includes wavelengths over such a wide range, the human ear cannot distinguish the echo of the quack from the sound of the quack itself. ('Mythbusters', Discovery Channel)"

    More than you wanted to know, right? :-)

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    1. Oh, that's great, Julie! Thanks. None of those words really fit what I was trying to say, but it might be a jumping-off place. And I loved learning about quacking and the human ear. :)

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  4. I don't feel I have a grasp of all the words we can use, that's for sure. Thank God for the Thesaurus.

    Oh, and my Twitter account got hacked too.

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    1. I love my thesaurus, Natalie. And I'm so sorry to hear your Twitter account got hacked too. Those hackers have been busy!

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  5. Actually, "gruntled" is a word--only archaic (according to the good ol' OED)! I love it, and use it on a weekly basis. :)
    I love this post--and the poem--as thinking about words is one of my favorite pastimes. But I can't think of any appropriate opposites for echo...

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    1. You're right, Faith. Gruntled is a word. But you're the first person I've known who uses it! Good for you!

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  6. I love the poem. An opposite for echo? Non-reverberating maybe. I'm sure there is some long, scientific term for that. Great. Now I will be thinking about this all night. If you hear from me around 3:00 am, it means I found it. 8-}

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    1. Thanks, Rosi. You may be right, but it won't fit in the poem I'm writing! Ha ha. Sorry if you're now going to think about this all night. :)

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  7. It occurs to me that an echo often describes a voice in and empty room or in a large expanse or a sound that is so light and airy it floats. So perhaps the opposite could be a solid voice, or a voice so heavy it drops to the floor. Looks like you also received some great suggestions above. :) Thanks for the brain teaser.

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    1. Thanks, Pam! More food for thought, definitely. :)

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  8. Inconceivable! I do believe that "echo" has no opposite, crazy as it is! I love that poem! :)

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    1. It is hard to believe, Erik. No exact opposite, anyway.

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  9. What an interesting play on words. I've never used gruntled or eptly before.

    The opposite of echo? Echa? I don't know.

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    1. Ha, Medeia! Maybe I should be making up words. Roald Dahl certainly did!

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  10. I don't recall every using ept- although now I have a desire to do so. It was so fun to read his play on words- and there were certainly some interesting words in the poem. :)

    Wish I could help with the opposite of echo- regular vibration?
    ~Jess

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  11. Oh- and yes- making up words like Roald Dahl is totally allowed! :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Thanks, Jess! Glad to know that making up words is allowed! And that's funny that you now have the desire to use the word ept. Me too.

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  12. Opposite for echo? I need context. Quiet, bounded, boundless, singular, restrained, primary, original, silence, flat, and first come to mind. Of course, your poem is likely already written.

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    1. Hi Linda! Great to hear from you. Quiet was what I was going for, since the poem is all about that. But I've already used every variation of the word quiet I could find. I like the word boundless. Hadn't thought of that.

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  13. You may have already solved this problem. Echoes, like all sound, are caused by the vibration of sound waves. What about "still" or "void" or "empty?"

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    1. Hi Myrna, and thanks. I have used the word still, but empty's also a good possibility.

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YAY for comments! I read and appreciate each one and I always try to answer. All opinions welcome. Let's have a conversation.