The Top Ten: Words that are the opposite of their meaning


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The Independent Culture

Tom Chatfield quoted David Foster Wallace, who wrote in an essay collected in 'Both Flesh and Not' of, 'a tiny elite cadre of words that possess the opposite of the qualities they denote', including diminutive, classy, big, colloquialism and pulchritude. Here are 10 more…

1. Monosyllabic

Nominated by Nicci French, Chris Jones and Tom Joyce, who also suggested truncated and abbreviated.

2. Banned

Allowed through by James.

3. Palindrome

Emordnilap got Josh Cowls nowhere.

4. Hyphenated

Joined by Chris Jones and Adam Huntley.

5. Vertical

Nominated by Nicci French, who also thought of twinned.

6. Unpronounceable

Also from James. And many other un- words, such as unwritten (James again), unstated (Nicci French), unreadable (Chairman Moët) and untranslatable (Chris Jones).

7. Korrect

Very droll from Adam Huntley.

8. Germanic

Which is a Romance word. Roger White points out it comes from the Latin germanus "related, of the same parents" hence "related peoples of central and northern Europe".

9. Infinite

10. Misspelled

Spelt out by Chris Jones and Adam Huntley again.

Next week: Worst lines of poetry by an otherwise renowned poet

Coming soon: Unbuilt buildings (we have had great, horrible and fictional ones: now planned ones never finished). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to