Non

A warning has already been given against creating new words by prefixing dis to old ones. The same warning is needed about non. A suitable opposite probably already exists. "Institutions for the care of the non-sick" does not strike the reader as a felicitous title. Non-sick is presumably intended to mean something different from healthy, but if so the difference should be explained; it is not apparent. Some words have created their opposites in this way. Such are non-appearance, non combatant, non-conformist, non-existent, and others. But the lazy habit of using non to turn any word upside-down so as not to have the trouble of thinking of its proper opposite is becoming sadly common. Sir Alan Herbert remarked some years ago that no one would think of saying non-sober when he meant drunk. I cannot feel sure that that is still true.

I should have said that this trick was of quite recent origin if Mr. G. M. Young had not sent me an eighty-year-old example of it that would hold its own against any modern rival. Sir John Simon, F.R.S., the eminent surgeon who later became a government official, giving evidence before the Royal Commission on the Sanitary Laws in 1869, referred to "a disease hereditarily transmissible and spreading among the non-fornicative part of the population". Mr. Young says he was surprised to come across this, because Simon was a man of culture and a friend of Ruskin. "It just shows", he adds unkindly, "what Whitehall can do".

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