Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Uncola

The classic exception to the rule that un- attaches to adjectives (setting aside the other un- that attaches to verbs) was "the Uncola," which used to be a slogan for 7-up. But now the delightful people at VW have provided me with another one.


Anonymous said...

You didn't even mention the last sentence ... I couldn't say it like that.

Monica said...

I know. It's that lovely anticausative construction so prevalent in advertising, I think.

Q. Pheevr said...

(setting aside the other un- that attaches to verbs)

But isn't this, at least semantically, [[un+subscribe]+tion]?

Anonymous said...

How about "undo"?

Dan Schneider said...

I agree with Q. Pheevr on this one. I see this as a perfectly acceptable word and have seen it in many places, and morphologically it makes sense.

If you can subscribe, then you can unsubscribe. And the act of doing so is unsubscribing. What do you call this process?: "unsubscription"

SteveB said...

@anonymous re "undo"; no problem with that; but we're talkng about un+noun.

On the same principle as "unsubscription", an act of undoing should be an "undeed".

I often think of the two distinct meanings of un+verb - "not [verb]ed yet" and "reverse of [verb]". So on hearing of say an "unspoilt landscape" I might imagine someone coming across a "spoilt" landscape and sytematically setting about unspoiling it.

Monica said...

Yup, as @SteveB says, there are two un- prefixes in English. The one that attaches to adjectives is just negative, but the one that attaches to verbs has a reversal of action meaning. Supposedly there isn't one that attaches to nouns (Uncola being an exception invented by advertisers). Now, for those of you who find unsubscription acceptable, all I can say is "language changes" (thank you, Mr. Verb!), but I think it'd sound bad to most speakers of English (we could do a survey...). For those of us who find it unacceptable, the explanation is that -tion attaches first (causing the change in the last syllable), changing it into a noun. Then the un- shouldn't be able to attach, because it doesn't attach to nouns.

Unknown said...

With my perception heightened to this un+verb and un+noun thing, I noticed a couple more unusual examples over the holiday: unearth[ed] and unman[ned].

Unearthed can be used in the negative sense, referring to electrical equipment, where "earth" is a verb.

In its more usual sense of "disinter", unearth is a reversal. But of what? There is no verb "to earth" in the sense of "bury".

I can only conclude that unearth is un+noun in the reversal sense, as uncola is in the negative sense.

"unman" (to rob someone of their courage) is again a reversal sense of un+ something that only doubtfully has verb status. We have "man up" (be brave) but not man(v) on its own in that sense.

Of course "man" has a verbal sense with negative un- as in "the hotel desk was unmanned"; but can you "unman" a desk?