Thursday, May 20, 2010

To combobulate or discombobulate, that is the question.

I was on a conference call today and the gentleman on the other end made a comment about being discombobulated. I’ve heard this word plenty of times in my life and I’m quite familiar with it, in fact, I use it myself at times. But for some reason at the exact moment he said “discombobulated” I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before – where’s combobulate?!?!

Of course the first thing I had to do as soon as I got back to my desk was to do some quick research on discombobulate. It turns out that we don’t say combobulate because there is no combobulate! Sure, we have the anti (discombobulate), but we have no posi (combobulate). It only stands to reason that there should be a posi, especially if there’s and anti!

On with my research: I found this on (I prefer it in this instance over and this from WordPress (turns out that I’m not the only one who has concerns over this word). says that discombobulate is “1825–35, Americanism; fanciful alter. of discompose or discomfort.” Meaning that discombobulate doesn’t have a Latin origin? Which means it doesn’t have a root word? No base to build off of to develop an anti?


So… should we start a movement by regularly using combobulate in our daily lives? I’m on board if you are.


1 comment:

  1. karl & i had a similar discussion in the emergency room about defibrillator and what is fibrillation. unlike combobulation, there actually is fibrillation.

    Fibrillation is the rapid, irregular, and unsynchronized contraction of muscle fibers. An important occurrence is with regards to the heart. this is bad, hence the defibrillator.
    'paddles!' 'clear!'