The sipid details of English
English has a whole plethora of words that exist only in a negative form, with the positive form being made obsolete over time. Some examples are inept, unruly, insipid, nondescript – you never see the opposite of these words (although I suppose it would be complimentary if someone was to call you ept, ruly, sipid, or descript).
Jack Winter used a huge number of these unwords in his piece, How I Met My Wife, originally submitted to the New Yorker. Can you spot all the opposite uses of common words and phrases?
She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savoury character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.
Even for the advanced English learner, most of this paragraph would be incorrect, and it would be very difficult to work out the real meaning. Nevertheless, I think it’s a wonderful example of knowing the rules and bending them to make something both entertaining and thought-provoking. It’s so far from inane that it might just be ane.