Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ghost Words

Some English words suggest the existence of other words, either their opposites or stem words, which are not real. These are ghost words. For example:

aghast and ghastly — How come there is no such thing as ghast?

behead — Shouldn’t it be dehead instead?

earnest — Is this what you are when you earn the most?

echo — Why isn’t it echohohoho?

eleven, twelve — Wouldn’t it make more sense if they were oneteen, twoteen?

gruesome — If its so bad, why isn’t it grueplenty?

height — Why is it width, length, and breadth but not heighth?

hijack — Would a hijill be a less violent crime?

hitchhiker — Does he become a hitchrider when he gets a ride?

holy — Does this describe Santa’s mood when he goes, “Ho, ho?”

lukewarm — Why not a matthewwarm or paulwarm?

manual — If stick-shifts are manual, are automatics womanual?

mayhem — Does aprilhem precede this and junehem follow it?

milestone — Is the metric equivalent meterstone?

monsoon — Would a monlater be as devastating?

offense — Why isn’t the opposite called onense?

pajama — We know pa and ma, but who is ja?

preempt — Is there no empt because something else always happens first?

redundancy — Is dundancy sufficient?

refrigerate — What is frigerate and why are we doing it again?

retaliation — Is this payback for something called taliation?

ruthless — How come there is no davidless?

seesaw — Why isn’t there anything on the playground called a hearheard?

shampoo — Have you ever tried real poo?

sightsee — When the deaf go on a vacation, do they soundhear?

sister — Why is it father, mother, and brother, but not sisther?

triumph — If not a triumph, perhaps a biumph, or maybe only a uniumph?

underneath — Did you ever wonder what was overneath?

window — If it has glass in it, shouldn’t it be called no-wind-ow?


Leon said...

You made me think long and hard about the English language, and smile a bit. Thanks.

Novice Writer said...

Never thought much about these till reading your post. Good one!:-)

Funny Quotes said...

Wow, these were some pretty funny quotes. The English language certainly does have its quirks, which probably makes things somewhat more difficult for non-native English speakers.

Breki said...

Actually, some of these have a pretty good explanation.

Aghast / Ghastly - there is a word called 'ghast', it's an old adjective meaning "afraid".

Eleven / Twelve instead of Oneteen and Twoteen - this is because most areas in which Indo-European Languages were spoken used a counting system based on the number 12 instead of 10.

Lukewarm - The "Luke" means 'tepid', as in tepid water.

Preempt comes from the word "Preemption", and yes - there is a verb called "emption", which means "the act of buying".

Ruthless - The name Ruth comes from the word "ruth", meaning pity or compassion.