Friday, October 15, 2010

Miso Hateful Today

On of my favorite combining forms for English words is miso-, indicating hatred of some sort. The form is great for describing people by what they don't like instead of what they do and gives us the wonderful words misogamy (hatred of marriage, from -gamy, referring to marriage or sexual union), misogyny (hatred of women), misology (hatred of debate or reason, which children normally -- but not always -- grow out of), and misoneism (hatred of change or innovation, from neo- for new).

(There's a Rush Limbaugh joke in there somewhere.)

If miso- comes before a vowel, then the o is dropped, and we get misandry and misanthropy (hatred of man and of mankind, respectively).

Although miso- and mis- are similar and serve similar uses, don't get them mixed up. Miso- comes from Greek and indicates hatred; mis- comes from Old English and Old French and indicates either wrongness or a negation. Misinterpretation, for example, uses the mis- form, not miso-, and indicates a wrong or bad interpretation, not the overall hatred of interpretation (although a word like that would be useful for describing religious fundamentalism).

On final warning: If you hate soup (I'm with you there), telling a waitress at a Japanese restaurant "miso-soup" won't get your point across; she'll just end up bringing you bowl of warm, salty, brown broth with bits of green onions in it.