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June 27, 2008


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The verb "clutter-free" will not be showing up in dictionaries soon, I suppose, but it has logic. Working backward from "free your world" -- and "free" does work as a transitive verb -- it's not illogical to qualify the verb. In this case, they're moving the qualification "[of clutter]" from a prepositional phrase to a verb prefix.

Not long ago we ran across "to customer-ready" (http://evolvingenglish.blogspot.com/2006/02/super-exciting-verbing.html), which seems to follow a similar pattern.

If I had better Google chops and/or was more attentive, I bet I could come up with other similar examples.

@Mike: Interesting points. But isn't the operative word "clutter" rather than "free"? You're not "freeing" your world, you're ridding it of clutter.

If something has no clutter, it is uncluttered. So shouldn't the verb be 'unclutter' rather than 'declutter'?

Aha. Well, I guess it's in what the emphasis is. I was reading it as "free yourself of clutter," which worked ok for me. Making the transformation then to "clutter-free yourself" is, of course, the unusual twist.

@JD -- "de-", "un-", they seem pretty closely related You can detangle your hair or untangle a rope, which seem like the same thing. Except that people tend not to swap these (e.g. untangle hair, detangle a rope). Currently, "declutter" gets about 1.5 million hits on Google, whereas "unclutter" gets about 225,000. According to RHD, the "de-" prefix indicates (among other things) "removal, separation, negation, reversal." The "un-" prefix more generically means negative or opposite. That would seem to make the "de-" prefix a more, dunno, active prefix.

@JD: Mike took the words right out of my mouth. You might say he de-worded me.

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