Don't feel bad about feeling badly

Sometimes it is vital to express the negative, but be sure to voice that negativity correctly.

Many people say, “I could care less,” which means they care at least some, and there is something even farther down on their caring list. Most of the time they probably meant to say, “I couldn’t care less.”

Negatives often suggest feelings — emotional, not physical. If you are sorry about a situation, you may feel bad, an adjective describing your emotions. You do not feel "badly," an adverb that suggest your sense of touch is out of whack.

The prefixes "ir-" and "dis-" basically mean "not" or "against," yet the words irregardless and disregardless are both considered illiteracies. They are not standard for either formal or informal English. They are actually superfluous; "regardless" is all you need.

Another couple of prefixes that appear at first negative exist in disinterested and uninterested. But we must look more closely. They both are commonly used and have individual meanings. The former speaks of one who is unbiased, while the latter refers to someone with a lack of concern or curiosity.

Two similar words, both with a negative connotation, are flaunt and flout. When one flaunts his money, he may make a display of a wad of bills in an unattractively show-off fashion. If a person flouts your advice, even after requesting it, she is showing contempt for or scoffing at your words of wisdom.

Or maybe this person found your advice unsatisfactory (adjective), disappointing or just insufficient. She may thus have suffered dissatisfaction (noun) and have gone away feeling discontent, disapproval or displeasure.

I am positive you shouldn’t be left feeling entirely negative, so I'll leave you with two "in-" words, neither of which has a beginning of "not," "lacking" or "without."

"Ingenious" compliments a person or idea for being talented, resourceful or innovative, while "ingenuous" means you are frank, innocent or naïve.

May our youth remain ingenuous until their common sense and good judgment lead them to become ingenious!

— Sandi Ekberg taught high school English in Medford for 30 years, with a special interest in vocabulary, grammar and usage. If you have grammar questions you would like answered, email her at


Share This Story