General Question

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

What's that word that sounds like it's negative but it's actually positive?

Asked by xxporkxsodaxx (1386points) June 24th, 2010 from iPhone

I saw this word some time ago and it meant something like happy, joyful, or cheerful. Something like that, you get the point.

Now the catch is, it sounds like it would mean sad, mournful, melancholy.

If I’m not mistaken, it started with “an”—a commonly assumed negative prefix.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

43 Answers

janbb's avatar

“The committee” wonders if it’s possible that you are mistakenly thinking of the word “anhedonic” which actually does mean taking away happiness.

softtop67's avatar

an exwife :-)

gailcalled's avatar

“Sanguine” means both “cheerfully optimistic” and “bloody” or “bloodthirsty.”

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

No, none of those.

Yes it actually means “Happy” or something positive. That’s why it’s rare to find a word with that kind of prefix.

I might be wrong about the “an”, but I do know that the prefix that it had was what throws people off.

Buttonstc's avatar

Well that certainly narrows it down ~

lloydbird's avatar


Jeruba's avatar


“Insouciant” means carefree, easygoing.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Crumby is used today to mean of poor quality.

Crumby originally was used as high praise for baked goods such as cakes and pastry.

ucme's avatar

Divorce? Could be.

JLeslie's avatar

Amiable? But, it does not really mean happy or cheerful, more cordial or kind. Just trying to think of A words.

Loathe was tricky to me when I was young. Seemed kind of like love, but meant the opposite.

Melancholy and homely also used to throw me. Melancholy almost sound lyrical to me, so I thought it would mean happy if I had to guess, and homely, since it has home in it, sounds like a comforting word, not negative.

Fyrius's avatar

Maybe if we just throw some synonyms for “happy, joyful, or cheerful” around, it’ll come to mind?


Any of those?

Kayak8's avatar

The only one I can think of works the opposite way. The word is enervate which sounds like it should be a synonym for energize or invigorate, but it actually means to lack vigor.

andrew's avatar

This is a stretch, but nonplussed?

sferik's avatar

auspicious? (sounds like “suspicious” but actually implies good fortune)

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

Rat’s, no luck yet!

I really wish I remember where I saw it, on the internet probably. Slim chance on TV, it’s hard to find anything randomly educating with basic cable.

We’ll find out, sooner or later….

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar


So I don’t know where I got this all from, but Kayak8 helped jog my memory. It’s actually something that starts with “pro” and means something negative.

Sorry for that wild goose chase!

I guess it sounds like a compliment, but it’s really an insult…. You’ll want to use it on me for the trouble :)

xxporkxsodaxx's avatar

Again, I’m retarded, I found the word within 30 seconds.

It’s Prosaic….

janbb's avatar

Well allrght then.

gailcalled's avatar

Odd initial description. Prosaic (a common noun and thus not capitalized) means “commonplace or ordinary” and thus neither “happy” nor “sad.”

It is used not to describe people but things…the prosaic tedium of daily life…

ETpro's avatar

@xxporkxsodaxx I am feeling so assuaged that you already found the word you were looking for.

gailcalled's avatar

@ETpro: Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but “assuage” is a transitive verb, and thus requires a direct object.

The fluther answer assuaged the fears of the OP.
An opportunity occurred to assuage her desire for knowledge.

ETpro's avatar

@gailcalled Ha! Right you are. A sloppy job of trying to work my word into the thread.

Fyrius's avatar

If we’re going to Grammar Nazi this thread up, I want to join. XD

@gailcalled Hang on, @ETpro said it right. You can use transitive verbs in this construction, no problem.
“I am feeling assuaged” is fine. Try it with other transitive verbs: “I am feeling betrayed”, “I am feeling threatened”, “I am feeling loved”. Perfectly okay.
It’s a kind of passive. The logical subject (the thing that assuaged him) is omitted, so the speaker becomes the subject and there’s no more need (or room) for a direct object.

Buttonstc's avatar

Well, thank goodness is was merely prosaic of which he was thinking.

We could have been here forever had it been “quotidian”.


Kayak8's avatar

And here I was going to guess Prozac and I would have been so close to the right answer . . .

stratman37's avatar

Aw, man! Can we keep guessing? I was gonna say gregarious.

janbb's avatar

@Fyrius You know more than many of us native English speakers about English grammar! Kudos to you.

gailcalled's avatar

@Fryius; Your examples and usage are correct but “betrayed,” “loved”, “threatened” are used as participial adjectives. “I am feeling assuaged” is not common usage and sounds, if not incorrect, very awkward. I am not alone in this POV.

Here is a discussion from the newspaper, The Boston Globe, in August of 2009. “Source”:

It was the word assuage that aggravated Maria Sachs…. “Did no one squawk about that?” she asked…. “One assuages feelings, not people.” And in fact, several commenters at the Times had squawked – or at least gently questioned the propriety of applying assuage to individuals, rather than to their concerns or conditions.

I had paused, myself, over the usage: Surely we assuage hunger, thirst, grief, and guilt, rather than the people who experience them? But no: It’s also legitimate to assuage the afflicted person, and has been since the 14th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Assuage, meaning “calm, appease, soothe” – it’s related to suave – was even used intransitively, once upon a time. The OED quotes the King James Bible (1611): “the waves assuaged.” And Wordnik, the new word website, links to an account of a settlement in Manitoba in the early 19th century: “On the 22nd of May the waters commenced to assuage.”

That usage is no longer current, but people are still frequently assuaged: Just last week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs addressed the question of the president’s Honolulu birth certificate: “If I had some DNA, it wouldn’t assuage those that don’t believe [Obama] was born here.” It’s a minority usage, but it’s far from obsolete.

majorrich's avatar

Maybe Precocious? Smart, but not always using it in a positive way.

Fyrius's avatar

Muhahaha. Linguistics degree for the win.
This stuff isn’t specific to English, though. You could make the same constructions in other languages and it would work much the same way.

Oh. Hum. That’s a different story.
You mean it needs to apply to a feeling and not to a person. So it’s a semantic awkwardness rather than a syntactic one.
Well, I’m not too familiar with the verb “to assuage”, so, having no intuitions of my own on how it ought to be used, I’ll accept your judgement. If you say so.

Footnote: The fact that the other verbs are used as participial adjectives can’t be the difference, because I’m pretty sure that’s the way @ETpro was using assuaged, too.
Compare “my anxiety is assuaged” to “my nephew is assuaged”. Does the first sound right and the second wrong? It’s the same syntactic construction, but the first subject is presumably more compatible.

gailcalled's avatar

Correct. “The anxiety of my nephew was assuaged” is more the common parlance. I would say,“My nephew was relieved to hear”....or “by news of”.

“My nephew was assuaged” sounds obsolete and ungainly to me.

The example of @ETpro‘s usage is from the King James Bible (1611).

What enables so many Netherlanders to speak such lovely and accurate English? It is very depressing.

Fyrius's avatar

“The example of @ETpro‘s usage is from the King James Bible (1611).”
If you mean he used it intransitively, I believe that’s not really it. He used it passively, like in my nephew was assuaged. It’s similar, but not really the same thing.

(The technical difference is that the intransitive usage means the version of to assuage he used had only one participant (a subject) to begin with, by its nature, while the passive usage means he used the transitive version of to assuage, but one of its participants was taken away by the passivisation operation.)

“What enables so many Netherlanders to speak such lovely and accurate English? It is very depressing.”
Haha, you think so? Thanks, I suppose. :)
We have a long tradition of learning other people’s languages here, plus a heckload of Hollywood and American music. And in my case, being an internet nerd and a glossophile helps too, I’m sure. :P
My (still quite basic) technical understanding of English and language in general on the other hand is entirely to blame on the fact that I’m a syntax major and two months away from a Master’s degree in formal linguistics.

gailcalled's avatar

@Fyrius: I am wading into very deep undertows here.

What was it that @ETpro said? Ah, yes. “I am feeling so assuaged that you already found the word you were looking for.”

KIng James’ 1611 says, “The waves assuaged.” (I would ask “assuaged what”?)

After having read your last post,I can no longer differentiate between intransitive and passive, although I do acknowledge that the two sentences are different syntactically.

I’m now going to do something simple, like pick up my mother’s mended hearing aid and eat an ice cream.

Fyrius's avatar

Bon appétit.
Sorry for confusing you. Have another one on me.

janbb's avatar

Will the ice cream assuage your hunger?

gailcalled's avatar

@janbb: Yes, but would it without the direct object? Only The Shadow knows (an intransitive verb there, I note.)

@Fyrius: You probably know this, but The Shadow was a spooky radio program that I listened to in the late 40s and early 50s. “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Only The Shadow knows,” accompanied by scary music.

Fyrius's avatar

Oh, that’s way before my time. I only started existing in 1987.

Kayak8's avatar

Whoa, reading all this English grammar, I am pretty sure Prozac IS the correct answer!

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@gailcalled in the phase, “It was the word assuage that aggravated Maria Sachs…” the use of the verb *aggravated” is incorrect. The use of annoyed would be acceptable.

One can aggravate a problem or situation but not a person. That is true whether the construction is in the active or passive voice.

One can annoy a person or someone can be annoyed by someone or something.

gailcalled's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence : Thank goodness I didn’t write that sentence about Maria Sachs. It was penned by the wordsmith at The Boston Globe.

Apparently there is a similar debate about using “aggravating” as a synonym for “annoying” or “exasperating.” Some purists think that is incorrect and are annoyed at the usage. Other more modern writers are exasperated at the rigidity of the old-fashioned ones.

It is difficult to assuage everyone’s needs, isn’t it?

Where does it all end? Don’t ask me.

ETpro's avatar

@gailcalled & @Fyrius Now I am REALLY feeling assuaged by all this discussion of my use of the word, assuage.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther