distopian vs. dystopian

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distopian vs. dystopian

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Aug 26, 2006, 9:49pm

I've always thought the latter. Google seems to agree. Any thoughts?

Aug 27, 2006, 8:48am

I agree that dystopian is the correct spelling. In terms of meaning though, dis- and dys- are the same, derived from the Greek for ill.

Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher, used the term 'cacotopia' instead.

Aug 27, 2006, 12:34pm

My college prof used "distopia" decades ago, but even English majors can be wrong.

I suppose I could check out the PMLA's preference, but let's go with "dystopia," since Google is fast becoming the Final Arbiter of Everything In the Universe.

Possibly some fodder for a dis, er, dystopian novel there.

Thanks for checking out the group.

Edited: Aug 27, 2006, 4:40pm

I like Google's "define" function because it searches many websites/dictionaries for defitions of a word in one shot, and if you enter the terms define: distopia into Google, it turns out that's the spellings used in the Romance languages.

Aug 28, 2006, 5:37am

I always seem to alternate whenever I'm writing the word, but I think I prefer dystopian.

Aug 28, 2006, 7:51pm

I checked my OED--which, after Google, is the Source of All Wisdom--and it doesn't have "distopia" or "dystopia."

My edition it several years old, but I think this word has been in currency at least that long.

So much for the OED.

My Webster's Unabridged was more more informative.

"Dis-" is a Latin prefix, "dys-" is Greek.

Webster's says "dys-" means "ill" or "bad." "Dis-" means "apart, asunder, away, utterly."

Also, the "-topia" in "Utopia" comes from the Greek for "place."

Given all that, "dystopia," would mean a "bad place" (as opposed to Sir Thomas More's original Utopia, which means "no place").

So, whew, we can all get some sleep tonight and quit worrying about THAT.

Aug 28, 2006, 8:03pm

As one interested in dictionaries, may I ask which OED version/edition you have, and which Webster's unabridged?

Edited: Aug 28, 2006, 8:41pm

OED online has:

mod.L., f. DYS- + U)TOPIA.

An imaginary place or condition in which everything is as bad as possible; opp. UTOPIA (cf. CACOTOPIA). So dystopian n., one who advocates or describes a dystopia; dystopian a., of or pertaining to a dystopia; dystopianism, dystopian quality or characteristics.

1868 J. S. MILL in Hansard Commons 12 Mar. 1517/1 It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, 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. 1952 NEGLEY & PATRICK Quest for Utopia xvii. 298 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. 1962 C. WALSH From Utopia to Nightmare 11 The ‘dystopia’ or ‘inverted utopia’. Ibid. 12 Stories..that seemed in their dystopian way to be saying something important. Ibid. ii. 27 A strand of utopianism or dystopianism. 1967 Listener 5 Jan. 22 The modern classics Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four are dystopias. They describe not a world we should like to live in, but one we must be sure to avoid. 1968 New Scientist 11 July 96/3 It is a pleasant change to read some hope for our future... I fear that our real future is more likely to be dystopian.

And nothing for distopia.

Edited: Aug 28, 2006, 9:23pm

Yeah, I knew online'd have it. It even has "blog" and the verb "Google" :)

Aug 28, 2006, 10:14pm

Interesting! I enjoyed reading all the answers. Far from a linguist myself, I figured the dys because the prefix seemed similar in meaning to dysfunctional

Aug 29, 2006, 8:41am

To rikker: My husband's OED is the 1971 edition, reprinted 1979. It's in two volumes, teensy type that normal people have to read with a magnifying glass.

His Webster's unabridged is 1989 edition.

He's the dictionary guy.

I suppose it's testimony to my age that I think these are "recent" editions.

Aquila, thanks for the update. Did you find this online? Free?

Aug 29, 2006, 10:12am

Unfortunately, OED online is a paid subscription service. I'm currently at a university that subscribes (I imagine most do), so I can access it from on campus, but not from my apartment.

It's a great tool, and supercedes any printed edition in ease of use, completeness, and up-to-datitude (that one might not be in OED yet...)

Aug 31, 2006, 2:34am

nohrt4me: The text of your edition is much older than 1971. The OED website doesn't mention it explicitly, but it would seem that the last entries (in the supplement at the end of volume two) are from 1933.

Aug 31, 2006, 8:36am

Well, no wonder I got it cheap. Thanks.

rikker's university pays for an online subscription, so I checked my U e-resources, and there it was.

But it makes us look so damn smart to have an OED sitting right there on our bookshelf, so I hate to get rid of it.

Aug 31, 2006, 9:35am

Yes, but in the old OED you get all sorts of fun archaic words that no one uses anymore. Scrabble genius.

16laikasol First Message
Sep 1, 2006, 11:57am

Dictionary.com only lists "dystopia." It's hardly the end-all of dictionaries, but it adds to the glut of evidence supporting the y.

Edited: Dec 28, 2007, 4:24pm

I am going out on a limb here but I think the devil here could be Daniel Webster and his Americanization of spelling. Color instead of colour and many other examples.