Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by mathman, Dec 14, 2014.
When and where did "dystopia" enter the English language?
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Do you have a reference?
dystopia (n.) - "imaginary bad place," 1868, apparently coined by J.S. Mill ("Hansard Commons"), from Greek dys- "bad, abnormal, difficult" (see dys-) + utopia. Related: Dystopian.
Yes, but it's interesting, because it appears to be a false opposite to "utopia", coined by Thomas More. This is not spelt "eutopia, which would mean "good place". Utopia simply means "no place", i.e. indicating it is imaginary.
But it is universally used to mean a place that is perfect, wonderful, etc. It was not coined by the ancient Greeks themselves, but rather by an intellectually-oriented member of post-medieval European culture, which freely coined new Latin and Greek words (more or less adhering to the ancients' rules for compounding) and even Latin-Greek hybrids like "television" and "automobile." Therefore we can be sure that More knew that he was creating a word with the literal meaning "no place"--his little joke, admitting that there really is no such place.
Dystopia, on the other hand, is, literally, a "bad place." In most eras, there are plenty of actual dystopias in existence. North Korea, Sudan and Nicaragua, in our own era, come to mind.
Indeed, I found that apparently More even referred to the ambiguity in the spoken meaning in an addendum to the book. So he may have been aware there was a pun there.
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