Nuncation

Yesterday, somebody I know mused about the antonym of procrastinate. There isn’t a verb I’m aware of for doing something immediately or for doing something before it’s due. However, it’s possible to build one.

Procrastinate comes from Latin. Pro- means toward or forCras means tomorrow, while crastinus is the possessive. -Ate is a standard plural imperative ending in Latin, and is common in English verbs of Latin origin (e.g., state, dictate, rotate, navigate). Hence, procrastinate means save it for tomorrow; the action (save it) is implied by its status as a verb.

The relevant pieces for hypothetical related verbs are straightforward. Consulting Cassell’s Latin Dictionary, we find:

  • ante, previous
  • nunc, now
  • heri (or here), yesterday
  • hesternus, of yesterday
  • hodie, today
  • hodiernus, of today

Most of these pieces are present as morphemes in modern English.

As a prefix, ante- refers to what comes before or first, as in antebellum (the period before a war, usually the US Civil War), antechamber (the room just outside a main room, used for greeting guests), and just plain ante (a bet made before playing cards are dealt out).

Nunc descends into now, as well as appearing in the archaic quidnunc, another word for a gossip that literally means “What now?”, i.e., “What’s new?”

Heri is vaguely related to the various modern words related to inheritance. Hesternus is related to yesterday and yesteryear.

Hodie is a contraction of hoc die. Die has since become day (and also lives on in diary and diurnal), while hoc is the ablative masculine singular of hic, this, as in the Latin phrases ad hoc (for the moment) and post hoc (after the fact). Thus, hodie means on this day.

Now that we have the pieces, the question becomes how to put them together.

The most obvious analog to procrastinate for doing it today would be prohodiernate. A commentator elsewhere expresses the concern that such a word would be awkward in the past tense. However, given that procrastinate has lost its explicit reference to tomorrow, I don’t see why prohodiernate would have its explicit reference to today.

On the other hand, a problem I perceive with prohodiernate is that its pro- suggests a putting off, just not on as large a scale as with procrastinate. Prohodiernation might mean, “I’ll do it today, but not necessarily right away.” This in itself is a useful concept: “It’s on my list of things to do, I’ll make sure it’s done, but it’s not my first priority.”

Dropping pro- gives us hodiernation, which is one of the aforementioned commentator’s suggestions, although in my view this still lacks an implication of immediacy.

Nuncate would be interpretable as to do now, although it’s unclear whether an Ancient Roman would concur.

The aforementioned commentator suggests the possible need for a clarifying prefix, either fac(i)- or effec(i)- (related to Latin verbs meaning to do and to accomplish, respectively). However, I concur with that individual that facinuncate and effecinuncate are nightmarish options. Since we’re building a word, we do have enough flexibility to toss out utterly unworkable options, regardless of the opinions of putative, long-dead Romans.

Of these options, the most attractive in my perspective is nuncate. It does have the minor weakness of being close in spelling to nunciate, but that’s tolerable.

Nuncate would mean do right away, but what of getting done something before it’s expected, anticipated, or even asked for, a la M*A*S*H’s Radar? We have two obvious options: Get it done before today, or get it done yesterday.

Getting it done before today would be to antehodiernate, that is, do it in the time period closely preceding today. To do it yesterday would be to hesternate. Strictly speaking, both of these have the same problem as ordering someone to “get it done yesterday!”–it’s a logical impossibility.

To be utterly logical, which is what some Romans loved trying to be, the form would need to be based on the perfect imperative, a verb tense that doesn’t exist (for obvious reasons). The perfect infinitive uses -iss-, along with other root changes.

Keeping in mind, then, that we are now moving admittedly farther off the reservation,  I nonetheless put forth hesternissate, that is, to have gotten done yesterday. While hesternissate may seem like a mouthful, at least it’s less atrocious than antehodiernissate (especially if, as a purist, you pronounce -dier- as two syllables).

To summarize, then, my suggestions are:

  • Prohodiernate: To do something in the short term, but not immediately
  • Nuncate: To do something immediately
  • Hesternissate: To do something before it’s expected

Sample uses:

  • Don’t worry, I’m prohodiernating my weekly timesheets, but I have a client issue I’m attending to right now.
  • I have to nuncate my homework, so I don’t have it on my mind when I’m watching the show tonight.
  • As soon as I sign up for classes, I buy the books and read the first chapter. I realize it’s hesternissation, but I enjoy having the head start.
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2 Responses to Nuncation

  1. Pavel says:

    This is a lovely article. I tried to pick apart procrastinate earlier today to make an antonym, but, not being a Latin student, I came up with prohidierate, which is not completely right. I think I will adopt these words into my vocabulary now.

  2. Sean says:

    I stumbled upon this website while trying to find an antonym for “procrastinate.” Being a Latin student myself, I agree with most of what you say. “Prohodiernate” seems like a logical antonym to “procrastinate,” as both words share a similar construction. Also, “dies” doesn’t necessarily mean a literal 24 hour time period. The most obvious example of this is “carpe diem,” usually translated as “sieze the day,” which both in Latin and English implies an immediacy. Perhaps a more direct antonym would be “inprocrastinate,” but Latin suffers the problem: does the prefix “in” mean “not” or “into?” You could borrow the greek prefix and have “aprocrastinate.”

    In the end, though, I do like “nuncate” a little better than “prohodierate,” as it’s not as much as a mouthful.

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