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Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 1:40 pm
I was reading an article named "Where have all the parents gone" by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. I came across the word "dystopic". Since it was part of my homework assignment, I looked up this word on my favorite free online dictionary: Merriam-Webster. It didn't recognize "dystopic" as a word but listed dystopia: an imaginary place where people lead dehimanized and often fearful lives. My question; is "dystopic" a correct usage of "dystopia"?
Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:09 pm
This is interesting, because Dystopic does have a meaning in medicine. It is something that is in the wrong place as well being better knownas a sort of negative image of Utopia. But, in exactly the same way that we talk of a Utopian society, I can personally see no reason whatsoever not to speak of a Dystopic society if the piece you quote is referring to such a nightmare.
Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:20 pm
It doesn't sound wrong to me, but the dictionaries seem to prefer dystopian rather than dystopic, though anyone who knew what a dystopia was would understand what was meant by dystopic.
However, since "utopian" seems to be the accepted adj. form of "utopia" (see what Bob wrote above), it does seem more correct follow that convention as "utopic" neither sounds nor looks correct (some sort of debate store where you have to supply your own ideas - the U-Topic?)
Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:29 pm
My Chambers 20th C Dictionary gives 'dystopian' as the adjectival form of 'dystopia' (which it defines as 'a place thought of as the opposite to Utopia, i.e. where everything is as bad as possible'). My Websters New Universal Unabridged also has 'dystopian'.
So it appears that Whitehead used the medical adjective where I assume she really intended to use the locative one.
Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2005 8:02 pm
Interesting word which I never heard before and I thought I’d check into its background.
was coined by English Philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill (1806-73) in 1868 and recorded in the Hansard Commons Debates:
“It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called DYS-TOPIANS [[l.c.]] or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable.” [[Note: ‘caco-’ is a combining form meaning “bad,” occurring in loanwords from Greek (‘cacodemon’ – an evil spirit, devil, demon ); on this model, used in the formation of compound words (cacogenics - biological study of the factors producing degeneration in offspring). (< Gk, combining form of kakós)]]
<1952 “The ‘Mundus Alter et Idem’ [of Joseph Hall] is . . . the opposite of ‘eutopia,’ the ideal society: it is a DYSTOPIA, if it is permissible to coin a word.”—‘Quest for Utopia’ by Negley & Patrick, xvii. page 298> [[sorry Charlie, but J. S. Mill beat you to it 84 years ago]]
<1962 “The ‘DYSTOPIA’ or ‘inverted utopia’.”—‘From Utopia to Nightmare’ by C. Walsh, page 11. Ibid. page 12 “Stories . . . that seemed in their DYSTOPIAN way to be saying something important. Ibid. ii. page 27, “A strand of utopianism or DYSTOPIANISM.”>
was coined by Sir Thomas More (1478–1535), English humanist, statesman, and author in 1516 and was the title of his book.
<1516 “The other day a great friend of yours, Thomas More – who is, I'm sure you'll agree, one of the glories of our age – sent me the enclosed account of UTOPIA. At present very few people know about this island, but everyone should want to, for it's like Plato's ‘Republic,’ only better – especially as it's described by such a talented author”—“Guilles’s Letter to Busleiden” in ‘Utopia,’ 1 November, by Sir Thomas More, translated by Turner, in Penguin Classics (2003), page 33>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Utopia
by Sir Thomas More)
Ken G – April 11, 2005