What would we do without the word “in”? Without it, no one could fall “in love” or be “in the mood.” On the bright side, no one could be “in a funk” or “in a pickle.” As a preposition, “in” is indispensable. Ah, and it is, if anything, even more essential as a prefix, meaning, I suppose, the opposite of the adjective that it precedes. In other words, “in-” is not dispensable: we must have “in-” around.
Thinking of the words that begin with the prefix “in-” is overwhelming, actually. “Incorrigible” came to mind immediately: that is how Kurt introduces himself to Maria in The Sound of Music.
“I’m Kurt. I’m 11. I’m incorrigible.”
“Congratulations,” says Maria, as only Julie Andrews could have said it — amused, exasperated, and affable, all at once. She goes on to define “incorrigible” for Kurt: “I think it means you want to be treated like a boy.”
Since “incorrigible” actually means incapable of reform, clearly Kurt had been misjudged by previous governesses: Maria manages to reform the entire family (with the exception of the Nazi butler, who doesn’t really count). “Incapable,” though: there’s another one, slying slipping into the sentence.
Do I have a favorite adjective that begins with the “in-” prefix? Certainly not “intolerant” (one strives not to be, at any rate), and “indecisive,” while accurate at times, is not how one wishes to describe oneself. Alas, I am not “independent,” although I was at one time. “Inconsistent” comes to mind as a word that might define my approach to life. Much as I would like to be a creature of habit, like my husband, I am blown off course by the merest breeze. I can only dream of being “indefatigable,” like the famous ship, or “intrepid,” like an undaunted explorer.
You could never accuse me of being “inflexible” — except, perhaps, where my children’s practicing was concerned. It was easier to insist on practicing every day (with the preordained exceptions of birthdays, Sundays, and Christmas), no matter how late it got. But, these days, I am anything but intransigent about my son’s cello practice. (I must admit, I worked “intransigent” into that sentence; I was concerned that an opportunity might not arise unless I forced it to happen.) Being insensitive to the lateness of the hour does not result in better cello practicing, as I have learned over the years.
Perhaps it is not surprising that, since “in-” as a prefix has a negative meaning, a fair number of the words that begin with “in-” are negative. But there are some “in-” words that cheer me up: “indestructible” is a lovely word, when applied to boys’ blue jeans, or to girls’ pointe shoes, or to a toddler’s sippy cup. If only trashcan lids were indestructible, resisting even the sharpest teeth of squirrels and raccoons! “Ineffable” has positive connotations for me: it means something that cannot be expressed in words. I have heard ineffable in hymns, referring to God’s ineffable love; to me, it means something so sublime that it cannot be uttered.
But now, only depressing “in” words are flooding in upon me: inarticulate, inaudible, indelicate, inconsiderate, inexact, intemperate, insufficient. “Insufficient funds” is one of those phrases that one hopes never to see stamped on a check. “Inefficient,” too: what one hopes never to be but, I fear, often is. “Intestate”: that means dying without a will.
In conclusion, this exercise has shown me that, in most cases, it is better to possess the quality as opposed to lacking the quality. To be corrigible, temperate, considerate, sensitive, exact, articulate, efficient, and decisive: that would be something.
This inconsequential post was written as part of Linda‘s weekly Stream of Consciousness event, in response to her prompt “in-” or “in.” Once written, SoCs posts aren’t supposed to be edited (sigh). I admit that I corrected The Sound of Music quote after the fact. “In the Zone” and “In the Home Stretch” photos were taken with an iPhone 5s for the Photography 101 “Moment” assignment and edited in PicMonkey. Photos and text are copyrighted 2014 by Sandra Fleming.