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Look to the negative

There have been a couple of particularly interesting entries into the Open Dictionary recently; new words that have an element of negativity (either in that they represent a negative attitude, or they indicate not doing something).

The first is un-fanmail – letters or e-mails complaining about a book or cinema/theatre production. This, as you might expect, is the opposite of fanmail, but it’s interesting that we now just ‘negativize’ existing words, rather than saying, for example, letter of complaint. The second one is Nevertiree – someone who intends to ignore the retirement age, and carry on working.

In some ways, the endless tide of new words makes life more difficult for language learners, but at least negative words created directly from their positive counterparts can be quite intuitive. What do you think?

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Sharon Creese

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