Double Plus Ungood

Although I often write about the strange and mysterious aspects of the Romanian language (and its grammar), sometimes things are fairly straightforward.

One example is the prefex “ne” in Romanian, which generally follows right along with the prefix “un” in English, to indicate an opposite meaning.

adevarat/neadeverat – true/untrue

placut/neplacut – pleasant/unpleasant

However there are some words you need to know which – very importantly – do not follow this rule.

  • bun/nebun

“Bun” means “good” but nebun actually means “crazy” (literally: suffering from a mental illness).

  • curat/necurat

“Curat” means “clean” as in the ordinary, every day adjective but necurat is its opposite only in the King James Bible sense of the word.


11 thoughts on “Double Plus Ungood

  1. I think you might enjoy the study of Romanian language stylistics. This may help you to understand some hidden contextual meanings of the words and also the connection with other Latin languages.

    om bun – as is normal/reacting normal to everyday facts/empathic
    om nebun – someone that reacts unexpected or strange, a “broken” man

    You can find studies/books/ students notes about this by Dumitru Irimia that can help.


  2. Just stop in between and double-check with questions (breaking it down and handling each little piece at a time) and act semi-hysterical about it (imagine some exclamation marks):

    Don’t go (when?) never (where?) nowhere (with whom?) with nobody. – “Nu merge niciodata nicaieri cu nimeni”. This is valid :).

    Or act a bit latino about it (for short ones).
    I don’t see nothing there.
    Nu vad nimic acolo.

    Pretty hard for us to learn the English negating-once-is-enough first time. “Eroii nu mor odata” has no meaning.

    But here’s a little one not making sense the other way around:
    “Don’t go no further” – “Nu merge mai departe”
    If you overdo this one (apply both negations in Romanian), it would be wrong. “Nu merge nu mai departe”.

    I’ll just stick to “it’s complicated” and leave it to the experts here or anywhere. I’m just as curious if there would be a golden rule about it.


  3. What about the occurrence of what look to the English-speaking eye like double negatives? :P

    Example: I have often found the saying ‘Eroii nu mor niciodata’ floating around the internets in relation to the Romanian Revolution. I know this translates to ‘The heroes never die’, but to someone who doesn’t know better, this might look like ‘Heroes don’t never die’.


    1. Actually it’s all Latin languages which follow along with Romanian and English is the “oddball” here in this regard. Literally “eroii nu mor nicodata” (which I see with my own eyeballs all over town, not just on the internets” would be “The heroes no die never” to be exact :P

      I think my favorite cross-translated phrase though is “Sunt greu de ucis/ca Bruce Willis” from an old BUG song :D


  4. I think it’s safe to say that the exceptions usually mirror the words that you wouldn’t use “un” for in English as well. I mean, how often do you use “ungood” instead of “bad” or “unclean” instead of “dirty”?

    This idea stands also for examples like warm / cold (cald / rece – is “cald” a false friend?) or wanted / unwanted (dorit / nedorit), etc.


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