"The Milwaukee airport has a sign “Recombobulation Area.” What does it mean? I figured out the answer only from an etymological point of view, though I never suspected that etymology can be of any practical use. To be discombobulated means to be in a state of confusion. The word must have been produced in imitation of some other dis-verb or participle. Since this coinage is a bastard, lacking respectable parentage, the dis-less opposite does not exist. No linguist will object: after all, one can be disturbed and disconcerted but not turbed or concerted and even dismembered without much prospect of being membered (re-membered) again. People at Milwaukee took off the prefix and probably assumed that most people would guess that, if discombobulated means “confused, perplexed,” combobulated should mean “disconfused,” that is, “having a full grasp of one’s sense of direction.” Then (by back formation) they coined the verb combobulate and a verbal noun (combobulation)..."Photo credit to lark is already taken.
29 September 2010
Labels: English language