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Montana Viewpoint

WORDS WITHOUT MEANINGS

December 22, 2008

THIS IS A REISSUE OF AN ARTICLE I WROTE FOR CHRISTMAS A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO THAT IS EVERY BIT AS TRUE TODAY AS IT WAS THEN, WHICH WASN’T MUCH. BUT A LOT OF FOLKS TOLD ME THEY ENJOYED IT; WHICH I HOPE IS AS TRUE TODAY AS IT WAS THEN.

Noon every other Monday is the deadline for me to deliver this column to those
newspapers which have the sense - good or bad, I can’t say - to print it. This Monday is
Christmas, but there is no holiday from deadlines for the folks who put out
newspapers, even weekly ones. There will be a paper published this week, and it will
be on time. And I have to fulfill my obligation to send in my column because some
editors may be counting on it to take up space and some readers may be counting on it to take up time.

Unfortunately, I also have to think of something to write about, which this week
seems to be very hard, indeed.

I do not want to subject anybody to a Christmas column on taxes, health insurance,
car insurance, politics, partisan or non-partisan, or on any of my usual dreary
topics. Nobody wants to read that kind of stuff on Christmas, and I am thankful for
it, because I have honestly not been able to think of anything to write about along
those lines.

I'm not going to write a column on Christmas, either, because there are plenty of
other people out there in weekly newspaperland who will write one and will do a
better job of it than I ever could.

What I will write about is something I have found curious for a long time: why are
there some words that do not have similar words with opposite meanings? For
instance, the opposite of unhappy is happy, but what is the opposite of disgruntled?
When a person gets over being disgruntled, they should logically become “gruntled”;
but instead they must become something else because there is no such word as
“gruntled.”

If you are unhappy, you can become happy; if you are unpleasant you can become
pleasant; but a disgruntled person cannot become “gruntled” even if they want to. I
am not so sure that this doesn’t interfere with some constitutional right or another
about freedom of speech that I might have.

I’ve written before of how my thoughts wander when I’m on a tractor or on a long
road trip, and this is one of the things I have thought about. Something you may be
thinking about right now is that Elliott needs to stop thinking and turn on the car
radio once in a while to fill up the space between his ears. And, if I had a car
radio that worked, I promise you I would.

Instead, I wonder why I can never find an “ept” employee to hire. I sure have had my share of inept ones. If helium is an inert gas because it doesn’t combine with other chemical doohickeys, what are the “ert” gases? If I become nonplussed when someone does something totally unexpected, why can't I be “plussed” the rest of the time?

See what I mean? Granted, this kind of concern is not up to the level of thinking
about the mysteries of life, but it is one of the imponderables of the English
language. However, that said, what are the “ponderables” of the English language?

If you can disrupt a meeting, why can’t you “rupt” one, too? If you can act in a
nonchalant way, why can’t you do it in a “chalant” way? You may be dismayed with the topic of this column, but you can’t be “mayed” about it even if you want to be.

Well, I guess this is just something I’ll have to learn to live with. At least I’ve
found out that these words are known as “negatives without positives,” and you’ve
found out that I can have deep thoughts about shallow topics, so it’s not a total
waste of time. If you’re really curious about these words you can go to a site
called “rinkworks.com/words/negatives.shmtl” and see plenty more of them. Or, you
can go on a long road trip with a broken radio and conjure them up all by yourself.

Me, I’m going to get my radio fixed.

Merry Christmas.

 

Jim Elliott

jim@jimelliott.org