I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that the English language has more than its share of incongruity. Between homonyms, synonyms and antonyms and double entendres, a person just learning the language can be justifiably confused. But that’s also true for those of us quite used to speaking the language.
Nowhere is this more evident than in “unpaired” words. That is, positive or negative words in common usage that don’t have an opposite. They may have had in more archaic times, but they have since vanished from the lexicon. We have created other words to handle that. For example, we say someone is ungainly but we don’t ever say they are gainly, rather they are graceful. Generally, these are words that have a prefix or suffix. Dropping those to try to get an opposite meaning makes them sound pretty goofy. Try these on for size:
“The disgruntled employee, Joe, avoided all the gruntled employees.”
“Though she was an invalid and he was a valid, they were still happy.”
“His manner with the girl was untoward, but it was toward with the guy.”
“Though unruly at first, the child later became quite ruly.”
“His life was pretty hapless, but I told him someday his life would be hap.”
“Please don’t dismantle that, it took me hours to mantle it!”
“What he said was absurd, so I told him to try to be more surd.”
“Though I was at first dismayed by the thought, later I became mayed.”
“He arrived dishevelled, so she told him to go get shevelled.”
“Though seemingly ageless, his death proved he was indeed, “ageful.”
“He seemed in a state of despair, but he was actually feeling spair.”
Have I missed any? Please feel free to submit your favorite unpaired words.