My wife and I were talking this morning and the phrase”less disingenuous” came up. I thought about how sometimes a positive word fades into obscurity while the negative form lives on. The first example that came to mind is gruntled vs disgruntled. Yes, the former is an English word, but a rare one.
Here’s a comparison of the frequency of gruntled vs disgruntled from 1860 to 2000.
In 2000, disgruntled was about 200x more common than gruntled in the books in Google’s English corpus.
But if you look further back, gruntled was used a little more often.
But it turns out that the people who were gruntled in the 19th century were chiefly British. If we look at just the American English corpus, no one was gruntled.
There’s a rise in the frequency of disgruntled as you look backward from 1815, which prompted me to look further back. Looking at just the American English corpus, a lot of people were disgruntled between 1766 and 1776 for some reason.