Negative prefixes

I asked this question way back on the old AOL board, but no one seemed to be able to give an answer, so I’ll try it here.

OK, you’ve got a word, possible, for example.
We’ll say it’s a new word and we don’t have its antonym yet. How do you decide what negative prefix to use? Is there a grammar rule for this situation? I know the word is IMpossible and it sounds good, but why couldn’t it have been UNpossible (I know, Ralph said on the Simpsons to be funny) or NONpossible?



I think it just goes by fluity and ease of pronounciation, rather than any hard and fast rules. That “n-p” takes more effort to say than “mp”. Say them over to yourself a few times - the tongue has less to do in the “imp” words.

The one I love is irregardless which people love to say. Since its negated coming and going, it actually means, “NOT without regard for.” Which is 100% of the time, NOT what speaker means. But, its not in the dictionary, so it could be argued that this bit of gibberish means whatever the hell the want it to.

I’ve also notice managers tend to uses irregular negating prefixes. Nonimportant comes to mind, but i’m sure I have heard ohters.

Actually, it is in the dictionary, and is becoming more and more acceptable. I see this as a sign of the approaching apocalypse, but language evolution is a fact of life.

What about inflammable and imflammable. I’ve always wondered way inflammable and flammable mean exactly the same thing. (some thing that does not catch fire easily is IMflammable)

Formerly known as Nec3f on the AOL SDMB

Wouldn’t the root of the word have some bearing? Remember, the opposite of “disgruntled” is not “gruntled”. Take Our Word for It, http://bay1.bjtnet~melanie//take.html is great for this kind of thing.
–Alan Q

And don’t forget, the different prefixes aren’t always interchangeable. consider “disinterested” and “uninterested,” for example. “Disinterested” means “impartial” and “uninterested” means “not interested.”

If you were choosing a jury, you’d want to make sure to use the right word!

And “un-handed” means “released from being held,” while “non-handed” means “lacking hands.”

Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

Joey said:

I’m trying to be gentler with arrant nonsense like this, but patience just doesn’t seem to be something I’m capable of. Where in the world did you ever hear the word “imflammable”? According to my unabridged dictionary, there’s no such word.

The reason “inflammable” and “flammable” mean the same thing is that the latter was coined to settle confusion over the former. “Inflammable” means “capable of being inflamed” … i.e. set aflame. Unfortunately, people saw the “in” and thought it meant “NOT capable of being set on fire,” with predictable results. People started using the word “flammable” to avert tragedy.

Anyone seeking an antonym to “inflammable” is invited to use “flame-proof” or “flame-retardant,” either of which is preferable to a non-word like “imflammable.”

Live a Lush Life
Da Chef

Perhaps Joey was confused and couldn’t bring to mind “nonflammable”?

I can see imflammable as being a seperate word from nonflammable. There’s a difference between the concepts of fire resistant and fire proof. So in my opinion, if imflammable isn’t an “official” word, it ought to be.

Doh! If my eglish teacher is rolling over in her grave… if my child hood fantasies have come true and she has dropped dead.

Don’t the prefixes have specific meanings? And yes, I know that there is a lot of overlapping possible.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong (heh–like I need to ask), but most of this is from memory:

Un = to reverse (undo)
Anti = in direct opposition to (antisemite)
A = not having the characteristic of (asexual)
Dis = the removal of (disinterested)
In = without or lacking (inability)

I’ve heard a lot of fuss about the word “irregardless.” I agree that it’s a ridiculous word, but I’ve never actually heard it used. Is it a regional thing? I live just outside of New York City. I know plenty of idiots (I’m their king), but no one has ever used “irregardless” within my earshot, except of course when complaining about the word.

I don’t know who first said “everyone’s a critic,” but I think it’s a really stupid saying.

The one that bugs me is “I could care less” said when the speaker clearly meant “I couldn’t care less.” dunno just does

Don’t know about “irregardless” being regional (Ca. here) but I have heard it many times and it makes me CRAZY. I concur, it is a totally meaningless word.

“imflamable”-not in my dictionary either, but, I have seen it on the back of trucks-can’t remember what they were hauling (quite certain it wasn’t gasoline ;). I am sure of the spelling because I had never seen the word b/4 and looked closely. My conclusion, also, was that it meant fire resistant.

Oh well…“I couldn’t care less”, or could I?

“Man, the 60’s must have been real good for you!”
George Carlin…“Outrageous Fortune”

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”
Dorothy…“The Wizard of Oz”

No, you haven’t, you’ve seen “inflammable”, which I believe I have seen explained somewhere as descending from “enflame” or “inflame” (although I could be wrong, or the “somewhere” could have been wrong also) and is synonomous with “flammable”. “Inflammable” should not be confused with “nonflammable” and wise freight companies won’t use it because people do confuse the two.

I’ve never heard the word imflammable before, but if it exists and means what the folks who have seen it seem to think, maybe it evolved from something like “impervious to fire”.

But why would you need to label a particular truck as being tough to burn?

Terrorist prevention? :wink:

Jeez Kat…not sure how you know so certainly I didn’t see it, but, if you say so!

“Man, the 60’s must have been real good for you!”
George Carlin…“Outrageous Fortune”

“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”
Dorothy…“The Wizard of Oz”

The reason why it’s illegitimate, improper, and inflammable is that those words are all derived from Latin. It’s the same prefix, but in Latin the last letter of the prefix is sometimes changed according to the first letter of the root.

Also remember that there are two kinds of negation: mathematical and logical. Logical, which is represented by !x, means not-x, or anything other than x, usually 0. Mathematical negation, represented by -x, means the opposite of x, or negative x.