Grammar

Thaw or Unthaw? Did You Do a Double Take?

When it comes time to plan meals for the week and you pull something out of the freezer, do you thaw or unthaw that food?

Grammar can provide some interesting moments for those of us who pay attention to it. The case of thaw or unthaw is one of them.

A dear friend of mine plans out meals for the family a week in advance. After deciding what she’ll cook, she then pulls out an index card and writes up a shopping list of the various ingredients she’ll need for her culinary magic.

Sometimes, of course, some of those ingredients are already on hand. In some instances, they’re frozen, tucked safely away in the freezer.

There comes a point with those frozen ingredients that they must come out of the freezer and allow the ice to melt.

So does she thaw or unthaw that food?

This is one of those interesting moments. I overheard someone at the grocery store tell a friend she had some meat she needed to “unthaw” from the freezer.

On the surface, “unthaw” might be one of those non-words that go right by you without notice.

It’s a funny thing about our brains: sometimes our synapses automatically hear what was meant instead of what was actually said.

I’ll admit it: it took me a minute. “Unthaw” stuck in my head for a minute and then I realized it: she meant thaw.

As a verb, thaw means to defrost or allow something to become liquid or a softer solid by warming it.

To thaw is the opposite of freezing something.

‘Unthaw’ isn’t a valid word.

Unthaw is a non-word just like “irregardless.” Its existence depends on a double negative that invalidates the word but yet still tricks people into thinking it sounds correct.

Think about it a second: Regardless means “without regard.” The intent behind “irregardless” is “without regard.”

Thaw means to defrost. The intent behind “unthaw” means the same thing. Otherwise, you’d “unthaw” something by putting it inside the freezer, not removing it from the freezer.

Have you heard any strange non-words like ‘unthaw’ that made you do a double take?

1 Comment

  1. Going one step further, your friend does not thaw the frozen food, either. She removes it from the freezer, so that the food can thaw, but she does not thaw it, herself. She could expedite the thawing process by placing the frozen package under her arm, but she’s still not the one who is thawing (unless the frozen package freezes her armpit, in which case, she would probably want to thaw herself). 🙂

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.