Friday, September 19, 2008

Inhuman, ahuman, abhuman

So lately I've run across authors who want to use all of the above words and to imply that they have subtly different shades of meaning. Simon R. Green is the immediate cause of the question, but he's not the only one who does this.

I've been turning the list over in my mind, on and off, and as far as I can tell, "inhuman," the only one of the words actually in the single dictionary I consulted,* covers all the territory that "ahuman" or "abhuman" would. Thinking over the prefixes brings me to the same conclusion.

So, can anyone tell me: Is there any actual shade of difference here? Some subtle connotation that I'm missing? Or are the authors using it for the coolness effect rather than for actual meaning?

*I've not exactly done exhaustive research here. Nor, by the way, am I protesting the invention of new words, or the use of words not currently in the dictionary. I'm skeptical, in this case, but also curious.

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