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Today's Word



Jul 22, 2024
This week’s theme
Look Ma, no affix!

This week’s words

Illustration: Anu Garg + AI

Previous week’s theme
Whose What?
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with Anu Garg

If you have ever flown, chances are you have been disgruntled. There’s so much that has to come together to make a flight happen. To start with, a machine (a high-tech tube weighing hundreds of tons built with millions of parts that all work), people (on the tarmac, in baggage handling, at the security line, and more), weather gods (arranging the right atmospheric conditions anywhere between the origin and the destination).

It’s funny-not-funny to see a passenger getting mad at the airline agent at the gate, as if the agent had a hand in the delay or cancellation.

Fortunately, most flight experiences should result in people feeling gruntled. They have taken you from place A to B, a few hundred miles or tens of thousands. They sometimes have even served hot food and shown popular movies.

So the next time your flight is delayed or your baggage is lost why not find a seat at the gate and ponder about something else instead, for example, this big wondrous universe of ours: stars in the Milky Way, animals deep in the ocean, or the private lives of passengers around you.

Or think about language. For example, If we have disgruntled, why not gruntled? Disgruntled has been with us since 1847. Then in 1938 the novelist P.G. Wodehouse wondered: Why not gruntled? So he coined the word in his novel The Code of the Woosters. We call this process back-formation: taking an existing word and removing parts from it to make a new word. (Although in disgruntled, dis- is an intensive prefix, not as a negative prefix.)

In the case of some other words, the non-affixed form has existed for a long time. For example, the word whelm. It’s just that it’s not as common as overwhelm and underwhelm.

In this week’s selection we’ll look at five words you likely are more familiar in their affixed forms. These are words that might make you say: “Look Ma, no affix!”



adjective: Contented; happy.

Back-formation from disgruntled, from dis- (intensifier) + gruntle (to grumble), frequentative of grunt. Earliest documented use: 1938.

“I’m glad. That you’re gruntled.”
Ruby Barrett; The Romance Recipe; Carina Press; 2022.

See more usage examples of gruntled in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

If it is committed in the name of God or country, there is no crime so heinous that the public will not forgive it. -Tom Robbins, writer (b. 22 Jul 1936)

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