Prefixes gone wild!: A grammar annoyances special report


The urge to abbreviate is overwhelming, but if you're just stating an orphaned adjective to the point that the subject of the sentence is always understood, you've fixed language such that the prefix has lost any meaning save the one you've distilled it to.  That's not what prefixes are for.  It's like removing a color from the spectrum so that it can't be applied to any other object except one chosen by a group you don't want to be a part of.

Cases in point:

*Psychotherapist means something very, very different than "psycho therapist."  Alfred Hitchcock's influence aside, there is no such thing as a psycho, only psychopaths.  Reducing it to half a word muddies the language surrounding an entire discipline.

*Similarly, oral sex has become truncated such that snickers follow from oral history, oral hygiene, oral exam, and so on.

*One final example is how in everyday speech the word anal is supposed to stand for anal retentive according to Freud's terminology.  We've shortened it to anal, but when I hear "She's so anal," the first thing I think is, "Really?!"  Then I realize we're resorting to uninformed psychological models rather than measures of just how uninhibited a chick happens to be.  Again, it's a case of the opposite meaning being conferred.

Now if I were to hear "She's so oral," I might get the wrong impression too... and be stuck with a girl who's all talk and no action.

Copyright 2008 Alexplorer.
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