Friday, 11 May 2012

How Gruntled Are You?

Don't you just love the vagaries of the English language?

I mean, I have often been disgruntled (don't get me started!) but why, oh why, can't I be gruntled?

Having recovered from being discombobulated, shouldn't I now be combobulated?

Musing on this, during a car journey back from northernmost Northumberland, I decided to investigate just what has happened to the missing opposites of words we use every day, so here goes:
Disgruntled comes from the middle English 'gruntelen' which meant 'to grumble' and apparently, since 1926 (according to Merriam-Webster), I can be as gruntled as I like because it was in that year that the first use of this antonym was recorded. Success there then! As it means 'to put in a good humour', consider me well and truly gruntled.

Discombobulated. Back to good old Merriam-Webster (I'm getting to like them), who inform me that it probably derives from 'to discompose' and was first used in 1916. "But what about combobulated?" I hear you cry. Well, Merriam-Webster let me down here, but I am informed that it IS  a word - an urban slang word - and can be used thus:

"Yo dogg, Mr. Dan really combobulates calculus! Fo shizzle D!"

Um, yes, well. Translations on a postcard please and apologies if I have just sworn at you. Don't think I'll be rushing to be combobulated. Might find I've bitten off more than I can chew.

Moving on...

I've been overwhelmed and sometimes underwhelmed but surely I should just be able to feel whelmed even if only occasionally. Back to Merriam-Webster who didn't shy away from this one. They told me it was of Middle English origin, first coined in the 14th Century and means 'to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something : cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect'.
In other words, it means pretty much the same as 'overwhelmed'. Uh?

Over to you, what are your favourite words that lack an obvious antonym?

I shall be most gruntled to hear from you!


  1. Great stuff, Catherine. Thanks for this morning's laugh.

  2. oh our language! I can just imagine you being combobulated...I think...

  3. My pleasure 'Authors...'. Sue - I'll let you try it first!

  4. This was fun, and informative too. Thank you. I've always wondered about flammable and inflammable. Then there are all those mantled models just waiting for the kids to dismantle them.

  5. Hi Sheila. You can mantle away to your heart's content. It means to 'cover, envelop or conceal' and is a real adjective but rarely used. Sounds just the thing for a writer's toolbox. Not much chance of the sins of repetition or cliche there!