Friday, July 7, 2023

Andy Young: Trying to remember the opposite of progress

By Andy Young

I’m currently taking a bi-colored pill with every meal. The pharmacist told me what it was, but when someone asks, I can never recall the exact word for it. It’s an anti-something, but anti-what? I’m pretty sure it’s not an antihistamine, an anti-inflammatory or an anticoagulant, though.

Which reminds me: is there any such thing as a prohistamine, a pro-inflammatory, or a procoagulant? If so, what do they do? And if not, why not?

I’m reasonably certain I’m not the only English-speaking person who often has to grope for the right word(s) or phrase(s). There are far too many words that don’t mean what they logically should, or that don’t exist, but ought to. Take the pros and cons or “pro” and “anti,” for example.

If to progress is to make headway or to move forward, shouldn’t antigress be its opposite? It would be if English were a logical language. However, despite significant effort on my part I cannot find evidence in any dictionary suggesting that the word “antigression” means a move backward. Or, for that matter, that the word “antigression” even exists.

Some inconsistencies about English are at least understandable. For example, while rational people use a substance that is absolutely free of germs or other microorganisms to clean a wound, there really isn’t any use for a word denoting an antiseptic’s opposite. Who would ever need a proseptic? The same goes for the nominal opposite of an antiperspirant. A properspirant would be a pretty tough sell since anyone who really wants to sweat can just engage in some semi-strenuous exercise.

Trying to make sense of the English language is problematic. Exhibit A: how come “antiblematic” isn’t in the dictionary? Shouldn’t there be a one-word term for something describing a situation that is utterly problem-free? On second thought, its sound suggests that an antiblematic should be a medicine that fights acne.

If a professor is a teacher of the highest academic rank, shouldn’t an antifessor be a teacher of the lowest rank? If an antidote is a medicine or remedy used to counteract the effects of disease or poison, shouldn’t prodote be a synonym for disease or poison? And if to protect someone or something is to defend it/them from harm, shouldn’t antitect be a verb with the same meaning as “attack” or “assail”?

If an antipathy is a strong aversion or habitual repugnance, shouldn’t a propathy (correctly pronounced PROP-uh-thee; pro-PATH-thee would be an antinunciation) be a strong love for or attraction to someone or something? Shouldn’t the 21st amendment, which ended Prohibition in 1933, have gone down in history as Antihibition? And if the proletariat is the working class, are the members of the antiletariat uber-wealthy, unemployed, or both.

Is the opposite of an antiquity a proquity? Is an antijectile something that isn’t thrown or propelled? And if something I own is property, is something that’s not mine antiperty?

If a promotion is a step up within a hierarchy, shouldn’t an antimotion be a step down? And for those who respond to this question with a pompous, “DE-motion is the opposite of promotion, Antifessor Young!” my reply to their smug feedback is, “Then how come PROject isn’t the opposite of DEject, DEpressional isn’t the opposite of PROfessional, and the opposite of a prodigy isn’t a dedigy?” Furthermore, if someone wishing to destroy something demolishes it, shouldn’t someone wishing to build something launch a promolition?

And while I’m thinking of it, if Prozac is used to treat depression, shouldn’t Antizac be used to battle overactivity?

If a probiotic is a dietary supplement……

Wait! That’s it! I’m taking an antibiotic! <

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