Gruntled and ert: reviving the lost positives

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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22nd March, 2014 Leave a Comment

Independent columnist John Rentoul has been collecting “lost positives” – words that tend only ever to appear with a negative prefix or suffix.

An effable stash of the things are collected on his blog, but his ten favourites, published in the Indie on Sunday magazine, are these:

1. Placable

2. Mantle

3. Dolent

4. Traught

5. Ert

6. Gorm

7. Ruth

8. Gusted

9. Plussed

10. Chalant


Twenty years ago, a similar exercise underpinned a short story by Jack Winter in the New Yorker, entitled How I Met My Wife.

It begins:

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.


See also: English – the linguistic equivalent of rock’n’roll

Hypnotised rabbits and other language to avoid in parliament

Grammar pedant or language bully?

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