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I'm sitting here, and hear someone respond to a request with "I'd be delighted". I understand the words to say this is a positive response along the lines of "sure, I'd be happy to help".

But I'm confused right now. When I look at the word, my mind breaks it up into de-light. And to me, that doesn't seem like a positive thing.

Hoping someone can shed some light on this for me (ha).

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    Hi, and welcome to ELU. Do you have the same problem with delicious and delectable? They all come from the same root word: c.1200, Old French delit from delitier (please greatly). This is where a good dictionary helps. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. See List of general references. Please take a few minutes to take the site tour and visit the help center for guidance on how to use this site. Oct 27, 2014 at 19:29
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    One of the joys of English is that many words can essentially be "parsed" incorrectly, to produce contradictory meanings. English is a punster's delight, and the de-light of dour soreheads.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 27, 2014 at 19:59
  • When I looked delight up at dictionary.com, it provided nothing that would answer my question. Sure, maybe some dictionaries will answer my question, but I thought that was "enough" to make this a question here. Apparently not. Oct 27, 2014 at 21:54

2 Answers 2

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Reference OED:


Noun-

The etymological delite is found as late as 1590, but earlier in 16th c. it had generally been supplanted by delight, an erroneous spelling after light, flight, etc.

Verb-

The current erroneous spelling after light, etc. arose in the 16th c., and prevailed about 1575: the Bible of 1611 occasionally retained delite.

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In some words, the initial letters de connotates "undo," for example "accelerate" and de-accelerate." In other cases, the two words are total unrelated:

You can light a candle, but you cannot delight it. You must extinguish it.

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    Well, you could delight the candle, but in those cases where the prefixed version exists as a separate word, it's pretty common to use a hyphen and in speech will normally get an extra stress on the prefix. Return vs re-turn, (p)reserve vs (p)re-serve, etc. Oct 27, 2014 at 19:58
  • @guifa Your points are well taken. Oct 27, 2014 at 20:03
  • This all reminds me of the schoolboy who was asked by his teacher to put the words delight, depot and defender into a sentence. After scratching his head he said 'De light was out, de pot was gone, so I did it in de fender'. The joke 'has whiskers on it' and dates from my own schooldays when people still had open fires, and used chamber pots.
    – WS2
    Oct 27, 2014 at 22:05
  • @WS2 Similar to the remark that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart spent the last 30 years of his life composing and the next 222 years decomposing. Oct 27, 2014 at 22:27
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    @Gary'sStudent In my day the joke was that an Austrian farmer uncovered Mozart's grave and asked him why he was furiously erasing an immense stack of musical manuscripts ... Oct 27, 2014 at 22:41

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