Charlotte Was A Beautiful Prefix

Published: Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 09:13 AM.

“Prefixes can really change the meaning of a word. For instance if you add ‘non’ before violence, you have given the word the exact opposite connotation…….” I drifted off to sleep. Miss Bryant was a nice enough English teacher but come on, PREFIXES! My mind was “connotating” on the ninth inning of the World Series. I was stepping up to bat against the flame throwing Ryne Duren with the winning run on second base. He’d just steamed a fastball past me and tried to sneak another one across the outside corner. I leaned into it and hit a blue darter toward the right center field gap. Mickey Mantle was off with the crack of the bat. I tracked the flight of the ball and Mantle’s headlong rush as I headed toward first—

            The whole class was starring at me, expectantly! The roaring Yankee Stadium crowd went dead silent. “Mr. Colbert,” I really liked Miss Bryant a whole lot, but she could drawl out “Colbert” with a fair amount of sarcasm if she thought the moment demanded it, “we are not in the habit of repeating ourselves, but we are still waiting for your example of a prefix that would give a contrasting meaning to the original word?”

            Duren and Mantle dissolved as if by magic.

            “Uh…….uh…….would it be like if you put “not” in front of “smart” or “double” in front of “dumb”?

            I haven’t been a fan of prefixes since they embarrassed me in junior high.

            “Grammatical affixes”, as Miss Bryant would call them, have been in the news recently with “in” being inserted before “tolerance”. It has created just about as much confusion as when we were trying to sort them out back in the classroom. I can’t tell exactly who is tolerant and/or intolerant of whom. The finger pointing and accusations are flying faster than that smash I hit off of Ryne Duren.  

            I wish I’d a’paid a little more attention in Miss Bryant’s class. She knew syntax like the back of her hand and could actually distinguish the antecedent from a dangling participle. She could certainly tell us if someone was not using a prefix correctly here. I remember distinctly her saying you couldn’t understand the word with the prefix added if you didn’t understand the original word.

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