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If I have a non-person object or idea that I consider to be my nemesis1, how could I refer to the object as a noun but use an embellishing adjective to emphasize that the object is my nemesis?

For instance, "Since the end of World War II, Communism has been the [nemesisical] ideology of the United States."

Some words that come to mind include adversarial, opposing, antagonistic, but these don't have quite the same meaning.


1This question was prompted by a non-deleted question on Programmers.SE: Do you have a [programming] language that's your nemesis? (10k only)

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Arch-inimical would have been nice, but that is hardly a common word. There is also antithetical. –  Cerberus Mar 2 '11 at 18:43
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I’ve just brought my citation count for nemetic up to eight. It’s a fine word. –  tchrist Jan 10 '12 at 14:06

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

EDIT: References provided at the bottom.


The short answer is nemetic. Longer answer follows.

In English, nouns of Greek origin that end in -esis regularly form corresponding adjectives that end in -etic: antithesis, antithetic; diuresis, diuretic; emesis, emetic; genesis, genetic; kinesis, kinetic; mimesis, mimetic; synthesis, synthetic; tmesis, tmetic.

Although this is perfectly normal English derivational morphology to coin new words out of existing classical forms, usually the related words already had related terms in that form in the original classical languages. For example, Latin has synthesis and syntheticus, and Greek σύνθεσις and συνθετικός; kinesis and kinetic are from Greek κίνησις and κῑνητικός.

Sometimes closely related words exist. The noun tmema is related to tmesis and tmetic; the noun thema, themata is allied with thesis, as is anathema (although that’s right from Greek ἀνάθεμα).

English also likes to elaborate the -ic forms to create new nouns via -ics, as in genetics, and sometimes also use the -ic form to double up the adjectival endings by adding -al to the existing -ic to form adjectives and nouns, as in hypothetical, hypotheticals.

So the adjective related to nemesis must necessarily be nemetic. Interestingly, the semi-lookalike Nimetic™ exists as an expired trademark for a bonding substance used in dental reconstruction.

The OED doesn’t cover proper nouns like that, and ∗nimesis is not attested in the OED. It also doesn’t list nemetic. However, the related terms nemesism and its derivative, nemesistic, both are. Nemesism is ‘frustration and aggression directed against oneself’, and nemesistic is the adjective that corresponds to nemesism, not to nemesis.

If for some odd reason you don’t care to use that natural adjectival form nemetic, then you’ll have to return to the definition of nemesis and choose a synonym, then rederive a new adjective from that. The OED attests three primary senses of nemesis:

  1. a. Usu. in form Nemesis. Originally in classical mythology: the goddess of retribution or vengeance, who reverses excessive good fortune, checks presumption, and punishes wrongdoing; (hence) a person who or thing which avenges, punishes, or brings about someone’s downfall; an agent of retribution. [citations from 1542—1989]

    b. orig. and chiefly N. Amer. In extended use: a persistent tormentor; a long-standing rival, an arch-enemy. [citations from 1933—2000]

  2. a. Usu. in form Nemesis. Retributive justice; (also) an instance of this; the downfall brought by it. [citations from 1597—1989]

    b. An unavoidable consequence of (or occas. for) a specified activity or behaviour; an inevitable penalty or price. [citations from 1863—1991]

  3. Astron. In form Nemesis. A small, faint star postulated as a companion to the sun in a hypothesis to explain the supposed cyclical nature of terrestrial mass extinctions.
    According to the hypothesis the companion star follows a highly eccentric orbit around the sun which causes it to disturb the Oort cloud every 26 million years, sending a shower of comets into the inner solar system. [citations from 1984—1994]

If you were looking for an adjective corresponding to sense 1b, you might choose the synonym arch-enemy, whence one could perhaps offer up the admittedly awkward arch-inimical. The word inimical comes ot us from Latin inimīcālis, itself a compound formed by combining in- not with amīcus friend. In modern parlance, one might think of that as an unfriend; indeed, enemy has the same origin, albeit via a more circuitous route, having passed to us from Old French enemi, anemi, anemy; compare also modern French ennemi, Provençal enemie, Catalan enemig, Spanish enemigo, Portuguese inimigo, Italian nemico.

One can use enemy as an adjective: enemy agent, enemy nation, enemy ships; Orwell wrote ‘Koestler‥was once again thrown into prison as an enemy alien.’ Used in this way it is stronger than merely unfriendly, taking on more of the added connotation of some specific adversary.

However, since you asked for a non-person, that seems to require sense 2b, not 1b. I’m not sure you want to go back to unfriendly or adversarial here, as the former is too general, while the latter has judicial connotations you may wish to avoid.

Really, I think I’d just go back to my original suggestion of nemetic. If that feels too bizarre to you, than perhaps you could try using nemesis attributively. But nemetic is certainly the natural adjective, so you might as well use it. Other people have certainly done so.

Citations

  • 1972, Scott Gordon, Two Monetary Inquiries in Great Britain: The MacMillan Committee of 1931 and the Radcliffe Committee of 1959; Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Nov., 1972), page 966 ― There were, however, strong moralistic overtones to the arguments of those who stressed productivity, there being a nonnegligible incidence among them of the Blimpish view that the depression was, after all, simply the nemetic consequence of personal softness, “living beyond one's means,” and a lack of concern for the morrow.

  • 1989, Isaac Asimov, Nemesis (1989), p 156 ― Nemesis will go right through the Solar System and have a perceptible effect on several of the planets. .. The Nemetic System is much smaller than the Solar System and therefore is held together more tightly.

  • 2002, Kane X. Faucher; Modalities, logic, and the Cabala in Borges’ “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”. (Dossier: Borges: perplejidades filosoficas). Variaciones Borges, July 1, 2002; http://business.highbeam.com/434832/article-1G1-87916115/modalities-logic-and-cabala-borges-theme-traitor-and ― For Borges, history is nemetic – a measure of all history – while the particularities or singularities (the people who are affected by the repeating events) are anamnetic: the Platonico-Leibnizian doctrine of reminiscence.

  • 2003, Julian Barnes; The seeds of rebellion; The Guardian, 28 March 2003 ― Moralists know that Hubris inevitably leads to Nemesis, but never before had the theory been given such literal expression. .. Why it went wrong we Nemetics never discovered.

  • 2004, David Abram, Goa, page 146, ― Environmental groups and villagers keen to preserve the area's relative tranquillity secretly hope the nemetic powers of the mysterious old curse will not wane.

  • 2009, Tim Rifat Interview with Jeff Rense; April 28, 2009; http://educate-yourself.org/cn/timrifat28apr09interview.shtml ― Obama has been placed into the archetypal template which fits into the nemetic group mind and he is being used as the ultimate thought weapon to drive the entire Western group mind into a mob consciousness prior to the Ashkenazy neo-Stalinist takeover.

  • 2009, Simon Warner; Wainwright or wrong? No rock in Rufus opera, July 29, 2009, http://simonwarner.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/wainwright-or-wrong-rufus-opera-opens-and-closes ― a leering and unnerving creation by Jonathan Summers as the singer’s domineering mentor, suggestive, in lime green suit, of Batman’s nemetic Joker;

  • Steve Mann, Jason Nolan, and Barry Wellman; Technomimesis and Sousveillance: Using Technology to Challenge Technosocial Surveillance; http://wearcam.org/cyborg_and_community/cyborgandcommunity.0.15short.html ― The mimetic act of holding a mirror to the social environment is something that Mann moves beyond written narrative to the actual use of similar surveillance techniques to “watch the watchers”, and this ability allows for the potential taking up of the nemetic role of “bringer of social justice” presented as an act of inquiry.


That proves that the standard classical derivational morphology of nemetic < nemesis is a recognized construct already in use in English, so you might as well use it.

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Sorry -- didn't see it –  ThePopMachine Jan 10 '12 at 4:48
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I'm not planning to use nemetic in a sentence any time soon, but +1 for thorough research and argument. –  RoundTower Feb 13 '12 at 0:12
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Wow, you really answered the crap out of that question. –  Malvolio Jan 21 '13 at 22:05

A couple words that come to mind are anathema and bane. As examples,

"Since the end of World War II, Communist ideology has been anathema to popular political views in the United States."

or

"Since the end of World War II, Communism has been the bane of political ideology in the United States."

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A catching point is that Nemesis was originally the name of a Greek goddess. While it's no longer considered a proper noun, perhaps its origin lends some clarity as to why it's so difficult to modify. Turning any proper noun into an adjective presents unique problems. Examples (of dubious etymology) convert the word into a verb first, and then participle. For example, see Urban Dictionary defines both Zuckerberged and Zuckering, but doesn't have a definition for to Zucker or to Zuckerberg.

But just for fun, let's try it:

Since the end of World War II, Communism has been the Nemesised ideology of the United States.

A rephrase makes this slightly easier to accept, in my opinion:

Since the end of World War II, the United States has Nemesised the Communist ideology.

I think you should give up, though, unless you like to verb words.

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Using your point about 'Nemesis' being the name of a Greek Goddess, I suppose we could use 'Nemesisian' in the same way we use 'Dickensian' or 'Orwellian'. (We'll ignore the fact that the latter two terms are accepted by the spell checker while the former one is not.) –  oosterwal Mar 3 '11 at 15:18
    
If you do regard it as Greek, the adjective would be "nemetic". This isn't an answer because I don't approve of such coinages. –  TimLymington Jun 5 '11 at 16:02
    
@TimLymington ‘Don’t approve of’ — say what? English morphology mirrors Latin here, which mirrors Greek: -esis words always go to -etic words. That’s simply how it works in English, and one needn’t be a Greek scholar to know that. The OED attests more than 350 -esis words, many of which have related -etic forms. Saying you ‘don’t approve’ is just plain silly, like people saying they ‘don’t approve’ of -y > -ies, or -c > -cking. Approval is irrelevant. –  tchrist Jan 9 '12 at 17:27
    
@tchrist: No, I don't approve of making new adjectives from names, particularly when nobody believes in the mythology any more. And it appears that most of the world agrees with me: you have found precisely one printed use. –  TimLymington Jan 9 '12 at 21:59
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@TimLymington I bet you really hate jovial and venereal, don’t you? Sheesh! Anyway, nemesis used without a capital is no longer a proper noun, so your objection is irrelevant. Even with a capital, it’s still Nemetic. And I have not found ‘precisely one printed use’! I cited one. There are others. For example, Asimov wrote of a Nemetic asteroid (see Nemesis, OED sense 3). Another reference is ‘...nemetic consequence of personal softness, "living beyond one's means," and a lack of concern for the morrow’, which you may pursue for yourself. That makes three. There are more. Enjoy. –  tchrist Jan 10 '12 at 3:13

While a bit clumsy, "nemesis-like" is possible.

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I don't think there's any graceful way to turn nemesis into an adjective, but you might turn it into one all by itself:

Since the end of World War II, Communism has been the nemesis ideology to the United States.

Or, better, turn it around and make the current noun the adjective:

Since the end of World War II, Communism has been the ideological nemesis of the United States.

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+1 for turning it around into "ideological nemesis". –  Marthaª Mar 2 '11 at 21:08
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The latter, just to be certain. –  lotsoffreetime Mar 2 '11 at 21:15
    
+1 for the latter. There may be a grammatical adjective to "nemesis" but I would never use it :) –  Lynn Jan 9 '12 at 16:25
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@tchrist: Ordinarily that's true (mimesis => mimetic, etc.), but nemesis is derived from a proper name (the Greek goddess Nemesis), and as such is more fixed. Who would understand nemetic used in that context? –  Robusto Jan 9 '12 at 17:46
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@Robusto初夢 Why should proper nouns have a different inflectional morphology? Timmy > Timmies, Sally > Sallies, Hermes > hermetic, Styx > Stygian, Iris > iridic, Venus > venereal, Eros > erotic, Herperus > Hesperides, Fides > fidelity, Medusa > medusae (meaning the cnidarian), Nox > nocturne, Pollux > pollucite. Clearly, a proper name still inflects normally. As for who would understand nemetic in that context, perhaps you should ask that of David Abram, per my citation below. Certainly any of my own friends and colleagues would instantly understand it. –  tchrist Jan 9 '12 at 18:19

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