Posted on July 13, 2014
Thomas and Ruth Roy of Wellcat had heard about disgruntled workers quitting their jobs, going on strike, even suing their employers.
And they got to wondering, what would gruntled workers be?
And what would gruntled workers do with a special day all to themselves?
If “disgruntled” means dissatisfied and discontented, it stands to reason that “gruntled” would mean satisfied and contented...except, actually, there isn't such a word as “gruntled”!
Well, actually, you might find “gruntled” in a good dictionary, because in the 1930s people who noticed that disgruntled is not part of an antonym word pair, like satisfied and dissatisfied are, jokingly started to use gruntled just as the Roys did, in jest. This is called a back-formation.
(The term “back-formation” indicates that the word formation went backwards from disgruntled to gruntled, rather than the usual direction of word formation, when someone tacks on an antonym prefix like dis-.)
So, in addition to encouraging people to celebrate Gruntled Workers Day by being proud of our jobs (or school, family, hobby, or self) – I also would love to encourage you to think of unpaired words – that is, words that aren't part of an antonym pair – and to find out if the missing antonym used to be a word.
Here's another unpaired word to get you started:
- unruly means disorderly, out of control
- ruly means well behaved, in control – BUT it is archaic and nowadays is almost never seen or used
An even more interesting sort of word, in my opinion, is the word that means the same thing as what you would think would be its opposite. Here is one example:
- irregardless means …. (wait for it!) without regard (that is, without thinking about) the current situation
In other words irregardless means regardless!
The truth of the matter is that irregardless is not a “proper” word. It is considered to be non-standard. It is a word that English speakers created, not in a joking way, like gruntled, but accidentally, by adding an extra (and unnecessary) antonym prefix (ir-) to a word that already has a proper antonym suffix (-less).
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