Unpacking the Unsucking

An age has passed since we last took the necessary trouble with this blog, or really any trouble. And in the meantime we’ve let you languish without guidance in verbal confusion.

While we dust ourselves off and ferret around for our red pens, let us direct you to a fun bit of word nerdery that dates back to last year. Ben Zimmer took up the tasking of unpacking the morphology of unsucking over at Language Log:

My first thought was that it was a peculiar case of the reversative un- prefix attaching to an intransitive verb and transitivizing it in the process: thus, to unsuck something would be understood as ‘to make it cease to suck’. But after discussing the matter with the master of negation Larry Horn (who has helped me think through tricky un- usage in the past), I came to realize that unsuck here is best understood as a denominal verb (that is, a verb derived from a noun): ‘to remove the suck from’.

It’s a gem with quite a discussion in the comments. Go put your eyes on it.

One comment so far

  1. Please unsuck “ideate” and “ideation”. As in “let’s get together and ideate on how to improve customer involvement” or “The Ideation Group is meeting today”.

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