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...ward/s and un...worthy

What type of words are respectively ‘-ward/s’-suffixable and ‘un[...]worthy’-affixable?

In, ‘-ward/s’ is a ‘suffix added to nouns of place or destination and to adverbs of direction’.

In that case, are the examples ‘Richard the Lionheart travelled Jerusalemwards’, ‘Zoroastrians pray flameward’ and ‘John looked Sunward and was briefly blinded’ correct, meaning ‘Richard the Lionheart travelled towards Jerusalem’, ‘Zoroastrians pray toward flame’ and ‘John looked toward the Sun [...]’ respectively? If not, why?

Also, are ‘unswimworthy’, ‘unwatchworthy’ and ‘unbuyworthy’ correct, meaning the thing mentioned is worth/deserves swimming, watching and buying respectively?

Insofar as ‘un[...]worthy’ is affixed to a verb when meaning ‘worth/deserving’, is it correct? If not, why?

I’m aware ‘-worthy’’s meaning can be different when affixed to a noun, so I only asked if with verbs, where the meaning is consistent (=worth/deserving), it is correct.

  • November 26, 2011
  • Posted by sigurd
  • Filed in Grammar

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Correction: Of course, with ‘un[...]worthy’, I meant the thing mentioned is NOT worth/deserving swimming, watching and buying respectively.

sigurd November 26, 2011, 9:22pm

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-wards - If you can have skyward/s (which is in the same dictionary), I see no reason why you can't, in theory, have sunward/s.(And in fact it's in the Free Dictionary). Anthony Trollope used the word 'flamewards' in his book, 'John Caldigate'; it's on Google Books.

I found a headline 'Gold flows Londonward' from the NY Times, which turns out to be from 1909 -

Not so sure about your (un)worthy verbs, though. But in theory why not? We have 'undoable' after all - well, I think we do:'doable' is in the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, but not in the Concise.

Why not try them out with your friends and see if they catch on. I wouldn't say it's untryworthy.You might even get yourself into the OED.

It does remind me, however, of a word now current in the UK - jobsworth - for the sort of petty official or employee who refuses your request with the sentence - 'It's more than my job's worth, mate.' - this word was (invented?) popularised by a particular TV programme.

Warsaw Will November 27, 2011, 2:28am

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Because ‘sunward’ exists, that makes me wonder if ‘Sunward’ is correct too. It would be useful a distinction, since there’s the Sun (our star) and the sun (the light or warmth of the Sun).

Also, if ‘Jerusalemwards’ is correct (?), can ‘-ward/s’ be suffixed to other cities/locations, such as in the examples ‘The snowstorms’s trajectory is New Yorkward’ and ‘The aeroplane flew Pariswards’.

The following are what I found, searching for ‘Jerusalemwards’:

sigurd November 27, 2011, 4:33am

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English is highly bendsome (flexible) with forefasts, afterfasts (prefixes and suffixes), and noun kenning (compounding). There is overlap among the Anglo, Latin, Greek, and even German ones that can give rise to befuddlement as to which one to benote.

Sunward is already in the wordbook. As a sci-fi reader, moonward is known to me as well. If you want to make sun a proper noun (Sun), then Sunward would be fine. The -ward afterfast also means facing, so praying flameward makes sense.

*of sufficient worth for
*suitable or safe for  
*able to be, fit to be, -able

Thus "the water is unswimworthy" meaning "not safe to swim in" works.

In the case of Paris-ward, I would put the hyphen in. Not required, but it helps to break it up for reading. Sometimes in unusual combination, it is better to put a hyphen in. FWIW, I would more likely say, "The snowstorm is New York bound." (or New York-bound)

AnWulf November 27, 2011, 11:19am

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Just because a certain suffix, when added to another word, modifies the meaning of that word in a predictable way, it does not follow that you can add that suffix to any old word whose meaning you might happen to want to modify in that way, and expect what you say or write to be accepted as standard, idiomatic English, or even necessarily be readily understood.

It is not a matter of types of words; it is a matter of particular words for which the suffix has become established as a standard modification. It is not a question of grammar, but of idiom.

“Homeward” (and “homewards”) are established English words. So, I think, is “sunward,” though it is a lot less common. However, “Jerusalemwards” and “flameward” are not established English words (and neither are most other compounds you could make this way). If you use them, your audience will be confused. They may be able to figure out the intended meaning in a moment or two, but they will probably suspect that you are either not a native speaker, or that you are making some sort of linguistic joke.

The same goes for “unswimworthy”, “unwatchworthy” and “unbuyworthy” (or, come to that “swimworthy”, “watchworthy” and “buyworthy”). They are not standard or idiomatic English, and although native speakers may not find them incomprehensible, they probably will find them confusing and weird.

njtt December 2, 2011, 6:26am

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@sigurd - this might interest you -

As you yourself point out, -worthy words are almost all based on nouns - airworthy, praiseworthy etc, my own favourite being cringeworthy (it's in the NY Times - hyphenated). Which is, I think, why your verb-based examples seem so weird.
njtt has hit the nail on the head, really. For example we can call a relationship loveless, but to call it respectless would just sound strange.

Warsaw Will December 2, 2011, 12:30pm

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njtt, I disagree. Rarely used and/or unfamiliar to some people, a word or form isn’t necessarily unacceptable/incorrect. ‘’

Since ‘Jerusalemward/s’ has been used by Geoffrey Chaucer (‘[...] Jerusalemward the righte wey to ryde’) and other significant writers since him, such as S.R. Crockett (‘[...] cheered the way of the Master Jerusalemwards with strewn palm leaves and shouted hosannas’) and Professor A.C. Spearing (‘[...] and be a trewe pilgrim to Jerusalemward [...]’, I’d say ‘Jerusalemward/s’ certainly is an established word, though uncommon to some.

Moreover, even if some affixed words haven’t been used before, insofar as they follow the logic of other so affixed words with only one clear possible denotation, they’re acceptable. That’s why verbs can be affixed with ‘-worthy’, even if the resulting word is new, since such words consistently have only one possible denotation (=worth/deserving [verb]), whereas forming new words by affixing ‘-worthy’ to nouns should be avoided, since ‘[noun]worthy’ words have multiple different denotations and follow no single established rule unlike ‘[verb]worthy’ words.

Likewise, the affix ‘non-’ can be used with just about anything, even if the word formed is new, with its meaning being completely clear due to ‘non-’’s one consistent denotation (=not [word]). The same applies to ‘-ward/s’ insofar there’s one clear meaning.

Were it not so, it would most likely be mentioned in their respective entries in as in the case of affix ‘-wise’.

sigurd December 3, 2011, 5:07am

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Ignore the inverted commas following the first sentence.

sigurd December 3, 2011, 5:08am

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@sigurd - we are not saying you can't do it, but in your apparent enthusiasm for stretching the uses of certain grammatical forms of English, especially with your previous question, you often seem to go against the flow of what sounds idiomatic and natural to native speakers.

Language is, after all, primarily about communication, and ultimately, I would suggest, about people, not logic. So why try to confuse them, or use language that jars, or sounds unnatural, or as njtt says, sounds weird? Why not work with the language we all understand, rather than against it?

Of course language can be stretched and used inventively, which people like Stephen Fry, Eddie Izzard and many others, do very creatively and successfully. But they do it subtly, with an inherent feel for how English works, and how it can be played around with; for what works and what doesn't work. And they do it in a way that people can understand and empathise with, and which above all, sounds natural.

Warsaw Will December 3, 2011, 7:09am

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This reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine labors over whether her new boyfriend is "spongeworthy".

Also, Sigurd, I'm with you on this one; if English were resetricted only to words that have been previously spoken or written, then there would be no language at all!

porsche December 4, 2011, 12:56pm

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porsche December 4, 2011, 12:57pm

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WW, I'm confused by your post (not the last one you made, but the one before that).
You say that -worthy words are mostly based on nouns, and yet two of your examples are verbs. I could see praise as a noun, however praiseworthy suggests worthy of praise (the action of praising) and I can hardly think of cringe as a noun.
As an aside, I've never heard anyone use airworthy (though it's meaning is clear to me) but seaworthy is much more common to my ear. Of course, I also live in a coastal area ;)

sigurd: it's true, if you re-read njtt's post; he's not saying that you can't make up words. he's saying you can't make up words AND expect them to be readily and widely accepted or understood. Though I side with you that certain affixes can themselves be quite easily identified and understood. I have not thus far seen any word that doesn't immediately make sense. Then again, I'm also not one to say things like 'must of' and I also know the difference between their and there (something I can't say of about 80% of my friends... oi).

Hacovo December 6, 2011, 9:35am

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@Hacovo - I'll go with you half-way. Praise I think has to be a noun, after all you yourself said 'worthy of praise', not worthy of praising, and after 'of' we need a noun or gerund. But I'll give you 'cringeworthy', well spotted. I still think, however, verbs are pretty rare in this construction. And the (US) spell check doesn't like cringeworthy, either, although it is in my British dictionary (OALD). Incidentally a Google count on 'airworthy' gives some 400,00, while 'airworthiness' gives some six and a half million. Strange!

Warsaw Will December 6, 2011, 10:24am

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Yes     No