Why Can You Be ‘discombobulated’ But Not ‘combobulated’?
Posted by apwood on January 17, 2008
For some reason I’ve always enjoyed using the word discombobulated when I just couldn’t get it together. It’s a fun word. However, my new trying-to-be-and-use-positive-words-only take has led me to ponder why it is possible to be ‘discombobulated’ and not ‘combobulated.’
While waiting for my turn with my incredible chiropractor (Dr. Janet McGaurn in West Chester, PA) she told me she would be right with me, she was getting combobulated. I in turn remarked that I liked that as it was the positive alternative to one of my former favorite words ‘discombobulated.’
She informed me that it wasn’t actually a word in the dictionary. Of course, I wondered WHY would there be a negative version of a word without the opposite positive option (when it was only made negative with the prefix ‘dis’)???
Well, that made me take a look at the dictionary.
**American Heritage Dictionary – Cite This Source – dis·com·bob·u·late (dĭs’kəm-bŏb’yə-lāt’)
tr.v. dis·com·bob·u·lat·ed, dis·com·bob·u·lat·ing, dis·com·bob·u·lates
To throw into a state of confusion. See Synonyms at confuse.
[Perhaps alteration of discompose.]
Well the alteration discompose…… the opposite is compose. So why not combobulated? It does sound a little strange but is that just because I’m used to “dis” or because it is positive. Not sure.
Now ‘dis‘ –
Did he invent the word?
- Not: disjugate.
- Absence of; opposite of: disorientation.
- Undo; do the opposite of: dislocate.
- Deprive of; remove: dismember.
So if it can have a ‘dis’ on it why can’t we remove it? Or do I have to hang up my beloved discombobulated since there isn’t a positive alternative?
Yes, it may not be important to some maybe even most people – i just wanted to know why? go figure…
Also adding to this discussion – Kate – informed me that the same is true for the word “nonplussed.”
|1.||to render utterly perplexed; puzzle completely.|
Well I guess I’m nonplussed about why?
I won’t go there why nonplussed means puzzled when the ‘non’ usually means not.
Oh well, Anyone?
Thanks Janet & Kate!