5 Evil Mirror Versions of Words We All Use

You’ve heard about sparkles. Now prepare to darkle
5 Evil Mirror Versions of Words We All Use

Words have opposites. That’s one of the first thing we learn about words, thanks to Grover demonstrating to us the difference between “near” and “far.” 

Some words, however, have no opposites. Think about “lie,” for example. We’re not talking about lying down (though, that also has no exact opposite either, with “standing up” being just kind of an opposite). We mean the word for telling a lie. We don’t have a word for the opposite, a single word that means “tell the truth.” Or, what about “coward.” Standard English has a word for someone who is cowardly but none for someone who is brave. Here in the world of listicles, we use the word “badass” for that, but formal settings do not allow that and offer no alternative. 

So, some words have opposites, and some words don’t. Other words, meanwhile, have opposites that you’ve never heard of. 

Forget Sparkles. It’s Time to Darkle


Cristian Escobar

Way back in the 15th century, they had a word for when you were in the dark: darkling. “We wandered darkling in the woods,” you might say. In time, this adverb turned into an adjective. You might refer to a “darkling secret,” which meant not that the secret is dark but that the secret exists in the dark, which isn’t quite the same thing.

Darkling then gave birth to the word darkle. If something becomes concealed in the dark, it darkles. For example, take the following poem:

As the moon through clouds that darkle
Flashes forth with sudden light,
So through darkling memories rises
On my soul a vision bright

When you read that first line, you guessed that it was a clumsy setup for a later line that ends with “sparkle,” didn’t you? Well, it wasn’t. But in the future, anytime you do think of sparkles, know that darkle remains an option. Sometimes, you’ll see some vampires playing baseball in the sunlight and you’ll see they sparkle, but you can choose a different route and go and darkle. 

If You’re Not Ambidextrous, Be Thankful You’re At Least Not Ambisinistrous


Towfiqu Barbhuiya

If you’re a righty, you’re better with your right hand than with your left hand. If you’re a lefty, it’s the opposite, and we hope you realized this early. Some poor lefties suffer under parents who put the pencil in their right hand no matter how ineptly they fumbled with it.

If you’re equally skilled with both hands, we generally call that ambidextrousness. But that assumes that you’re competent with either hand. If you’re instead equally skilled with both hands because you’re terrible with both of them, we instead say that you’re ambisinistrous. 

The word reflects our tradition of bias against the lefthanded. Ambidextrous means “both right,” while ambisinistrous means “both left.” The idea that being doubly left means you’re clumsy also lives on in the expression “two left feet.” Having two of the same foot would ruin your dance skills, whether it’s two left feet or two right feet, but somehow, we never say someone has “two right feet.”

Euphemisms Smoothen the Conversation. Dysphemisms Make it Worse

Taped mouth

Jackson Simmer

When we replace the truth with a less objectionable word for the same thing, we call that a euphemism. “Aunt Agatha passed away,” you might say, rather than “Aunt Agatha died,” and this word choice feels like it matters even if the euphemism doesn’t really mean anything different. 

You can also replace the impartial word with something deliberately designed to be more objectionable. At Aunt Agatha’s funeral, let’s say you were to deliver a eulogy that consists of the words, “Well, the bitch croaked,” and then you sit down. Croaked here qualifies as a dysphemism for “died.” Bitch here is also a dysphemism.

Over time, it’s quite possible for euphemisms to become dysphemisms. Originally, the words “moron” and “imbecile” were objective ways of categorizing someone by I.Q. When those mutated into insults, we came up with a euphemism that was more acceptable: retard. In time, retard became a dysphemism more offensive than any earlier synonym, and almost more offensive than any other word period. If one person calls another a “fucking retard,” you may be well advised to quote this as “fucking r-word,” depending on your audience’s tolerance for dysphemisms. 

Serendipity’s Great. Watch Out for Zemblanity

Adi Goldstein

If you happen to bump into an old friend at a familiar subway station during your first return to town in five years, you might chalk that up to serendipity. But what if, on your first return to town in five years, you actively contact your friend, and they say you can’t meet because they’re taking a rare vacation? In fact, they’re headed to Shanghai, the very city you just left. What do we call that?

George Carlin had a joke about how we call it a miracle when someone barely escapes death, but it’s actually just as miraculous when someone who’s almost certain to escape death dies anyway. We need a word for when the world seems to conspire so events pan out in just the worst way. Let’s call that zemblanity

Natural Gas Replaced Unnatural Gas

Kwon Junho

“Gas” refers to any number of substances that happen to occupy a certain state of matter. You’re currently surrounded by oxygen gas and nitrogen gas, for example (at least we hope you are, because if you’re not, you have just moments left). “Natural gas,” however, refers specifically to cooking gas, which consists mostly of methane, along with a few other trace ingredients. 

That’s kind of weird. Cooking gas isn’t a terribly natural substance, since it requires industrial processing to get it into a usable form. It’s surely not more natural than the atmosphere around you, and yet you call the atmosphere plain old “gas,” while methane is “natural gas.” It’s like if we called the water in a lake “water” but called Dasani “natural water.”

The reason natural gas got that name is it had a predecessor, which wasn’t nearly as natural. Back in the 19th century, we used to make gas — out of coal. We’d heat coal up and produce a gas mixture that contained enough hydrogen to catch fire. Clearly, this wasn’t a very efficient way of producing fuel. But gas (also known as “coal gas,” or “town gas”) was much more convenient than lumps of coal for burning in lamps. 

Natural gas also existed, and it kept bubbling out whenever we tapped into oil reservoirs. We didn’t use it, though, because that seemed like too much trouble. Huge volumes of methane escaped when we refined oil, and to transport that away so cities could use it, well, we’d probably have to build an entre pipeline just for that gas, and that sounded ridiculous. So, oil refineries burned methane off at the site itself, without using it. Meanwhile, coal went to cities to transform into gas because those lumps were so easily to transport.

Then we realized pipelines aren’t that crazy an idea after all, so we started building them, and also compressing methane into cylinders. “Natural gas” gained popularity, and we forgot any other kind ever existed. Today, Santa still gives bad children coal, but since we have natural gas, no one remembers why he does this.  

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