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Is it an inappropriate choice of word to use 'nascent' in a negative context? For example, "Auditory hallucinations were one of the more notable symptoms of his nascent schizophrenia." Or should the word be reserved for something which is only in a positive context, i.e. nascent talent, nascent technology etc?

If not, then can anybody suggest a more appropriate word to indicate the early developing stages of an illness or disorder?

Many thanks, I'm sure I'm being more than a little dim and missing out on the obvious answer.

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Nascent has no particular positive or negative implied context as I know to use it, so use it when you are referring to something that is just coming into being. "Nascent heroism" vs "Nascent evil" both work fine. –  Sam Aug 16 at 11:40
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It's not a single word, but in diagnostic medicine & epidemiology, I believe the early stages of a disease are literally called the "early stages" and they are correspondingly characterized by "early signs" or "early symptoms". Will these suit, or do you really need a single word, or something they indicates the very earliest or first signs of a disease? Do you know the term exists and it's just slipping your mind? –  Dan Bron Aug 16 at 12:19

4 Answers 4

Nascent schizophrenia is commonly used in medical and academic literature.

Another term used is incipient schizophrenia.

wiktionary: incipient

Adjective
incipient (not comparable)
In an initial stage; beginning, starting, coming into existence.

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Neil - you've accidentally used "wikitionary" as a source ;-) –  Joe Blow Aug 16 at 14:09
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@JoeBlow is that against regulations? Will they strip me of my badges??? :) –  Neil Aug 16 at 14:21
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Really :) Yeah I'm a bit of an anti-wikier –  Joe Blow Aug 16 at 14:25

Yes, it's certainly possible to use "nascent" in a negative context. But given its clear (etymological) relationship to babies and birth (typically happy events), to my ear, it lacks a certain gravity, foreboding, or ominousness which you may (or may not!) be seeking. Let me suggest a couple alternatives.

I've always liked the word "inchoate" for its sense of imminence and inevitability overlaid with a strong feeling of "unformed-ness" (not-ready-ness?).

inchoate: just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary.

There is also "incunabular", which is (in my experience) usually applied to early books and writing, but one of its dictionary definitions is:

incunabular: earliest stages of something; beginnings

The words inchoate and incunabular both seem foreboding to me. The former evokes in me the idea of some Lovecraftian monster struggling to be born (just pecking at its cosmic egg; I actually often confuse this word with "chthonic"), and latter is reminiscent of incubation.

So if you're trying to write apocalyptic plague fiction or a clinical description of a patient with early signs of a disease that's sure to develop (using his body as an incubator), one or the other word might suit you.

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you know Dan, I worry that on this site we sometimes fail to answer the question, clearly and, err, shortly. For example, in the case of your excellent answer. would it be advisable in this example, to preface your answer with 8 words "yes, it's commonplace for nascent to be negative". then, one could go on to offer the additional useful information. Again I fear that on this site we sometimes fail to answer the question -- per se -- briskly. (Sometimes it's a hell of a challenge to extract the question per se :/ ) –  Joe Blow Aug 16 at 14:14
    
@joe, that's a fair criticism. In this case, due to my own oversight: I failed to notice the core question was about the applicability of nascent, believing the OP had already discarded it as inapplicable in her situation, and was seeking a properly foreboding substitute. (And IMO, while nascent can certainly be used in negative contexts, it's still got too much "Aww cute baby" in it to be properly ominous [it always evokes the Nativity for me]). –  Dan Bron Aug 16 at 14:20
    
not so much a criticism, I'm just wondering how the **** to best answer the confusing questions this site generates! :) {You know funnily enough - I tend to see nascent as a negative; nascent fascism, etc... perhaps just paranoid.) –  Joe Blow Aug 16 at 14:26
    
I don't know what was supposed to be in bold, there, but I have a inchoate sense it wasn't a good word :) Anyway, thanks, I updated my answer based on your comment and I really think it improved as a consequence. –  Dan Bron Aug 16 at 14:29

I haven't seen a restriction on nascent in negative contexts myself, but a good alternative to it is emerging or manifesting.

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Thanks Jasper, I did consider emerging but it didn't feel right. Manifesting might be okay, but I think I'm going to hang on to nascent unless it is inappropriate. –  neelyky Aug 16 at 11:13

The simple answer to your question is,

yes, it is completely normal and everyday, to use "nascent" in a negative sense.

You could find a million examples on google.


By the way, in your specific "medical" example, again, siumply search on "nascent disease" (put the quotes in to google, all of it like that) and you'll find 2100 results on 0.26 seconds.

It couldn't be more straightforward and obvious - of course, yes, you can use "nascent" for a negative situation, and you can use it in medical situations.

enter image description here

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I give some frickin' references and nobody votes! Geesh! :) –  Joe Blow Aug 16 at 14:31
    
Stack Exchange is a cruel mistress. –  Preston Fitzgerald Aug 20 at 15:30
    
lol dude ....... –  Joe Blow Aug 20 at 15:34

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