“Complementary Pairs” and “Back to the Future”

On Wednesday, September 8, 2020, five hardy souls braved the cool, early fall air and gathered in the pavilion at Lake Ontario Park, King Street West, Kingston. We welcomed a new visitor, Barbara Muirhead.

“Complementary Pairs”

Jim Penistan had set us an editors’ challenge: why is one word considered obscure (e.g., dysphemism) when its opposite (euphemism) is in almost everyone’s vocabulary?

Everybody knows ambidextrous (the condition of equal adeptness with both hands) but not the condition of equal clumsiness: ambisinistral or ambilaetrous. Most people understand pejorative (“expressing contempt or disapproval”), yet its opposite – meliorative (“making something better”) is barely known.

Among literary academics, exegesis (“reading from the text”) is often used, but eisegesis (“reading into the text”) is used almost exclusively by biblical scholars. Most people know that periphraxis means “talking (or writing) roundabout” or “using many words for something”; few know that monophrasis means “using one word rather than several.”

Other attendees contributed consociation (“companionship,” “fellowship,” “close or familiar association”) and disunion (“opposition,” “disassociation,” “dissimilarity”), orthodox and heterodox, diagonal and orthogonal, transgender and cisgender.

Talking about these examples led into a lively discussion of etymology (in the first example, dys is Greek for “bad,” while eu is Greek for “good”) and the goals of, and approaches to, editing. Sometimes our use of complementary pairs overlaps: using a euphemism, or periphraxis, rather than monophrasis (e.g., where the word feces or excrement becomes poo in everyday parlance and sometimes shit for extra emphasis). New words come into everyday vocabulary in particular situations (fomite, which means “surfaces,” has become more widely known during the pandemic.

“Back to the Future”

Almost six months into the pandemic, most people’s work hasn’t been affected, and aside from trying to finding more work, things will likely carry on like this. Elizabeth’s online copy editing course was affected because of the situation of some participants: they became too busy to complete the course; they had to share their computer; one’s participation was delayed because she came down with the virus.

Wednesday, October 14

At our next meeting, Clarke Mackey will talk to us about film editing and the parallels he has found with word editing. We hope you can join us on Zoom at 7:00 p.m.

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