“I dain you”

A character in a professionally-produced video drama (no names, no blames) said deign, but the subtitles had dain. Realistically, I have to call that a mistake, but an online search found The Century Dictionary, which I was previously unaware of but which seems to be a major and authoritative (if slightly outdated) source. It records dain as an archaic spelling of deign, so maybe the subtitler was just being archaic rather than wrong, except the video drama is set in modern times, everyone speaks standard US English and the subtitles are otherwise 99.95% correct (there are a few slips, but no others worth commenting about). It also records dain as a shortened form of disdain, but it doesn’t give an example of either use. 

I was surprised to find that deign and disdain share an etymology, despite the different spelling. Anglo-French de(s)deigner became Middle English disdainen, while Old French deignier became Middle English deinen, but at some point people reinserted the ‘g’ to reflect the Latin dignus (worthy) and dignārī (to judge worthy).

I don’t think I have ever watched an entire episode of the medical comedy-drama Scrubs, but I am aware that one character once said:

I don’t disdain you. It’s quite the opposite. I dain you.

According to The Century Dictionary, dain means disdain, so he’s actually saying the same thing twice, but the whole quote makes it clear that he means ‘I judge you worthy’. 

Despite this one use, we can safely say that dain is not a word in standard English. But disdain and dain are an example of unpaired words, in which a word would appear to have an opposite, or otherwise related word, but doesn’t. In some cases, the related word originally existed, but fell from use; in others it never existed in the first place. It possibly says something about the English and English speakers that they/we have the word disdain, but not dain

I know how easy it is to type the wrong word. In one draft of this post I used through, but typed threw, which sounds the same but is totally unrelated and is, in fact, a different part of speech, and in the previous paragraph I typed the related would rather than the related word, having typed a word would appear immediately before; would doesn’t even sound the same as word in my pronunciation (or any that I know of). But I have the spell checker on, and all those dains are sitting there with red underlines, begging me to check and change them. In fact the auto-replace initially changed them all to gain, main, pain or rain, seemingly randomly. (And re-reading, I found in the first sentence of this paragraph the wrote word.)

The only reason I had the subtitles on was that my wife was lying in bed next to me, so I’d turned the sound down so as not to disturb her. If I turn the subtitles off, I won’t ever know. 

(See also reign and rain (both reasonably common and leading to jokes about the queen’s diary entry ‘Reigned all day’, and feign and fain (uncommon and very very uncommon), which aren’t related. The first word in each pair is Latinate, thus the ‘g‘ in the spelling, but the second isn’t.)

Slightly relatedly, the first time I lived in Korea, I met a woman who was either born in an English-speaking country to Korean parents or moved there at an early age. Her name was Dain (which auto-correct has just changed to Dawn). 다인 is a perfectly good Korean name,  but Dain is not a name outside Norse mythology or Tolkien. Compare Dane and Dayne, which are. I thought, but didn’t say, that she could easily have become Dianne. 

I don't disdain you. It's quite the opposite. I "dain" you.

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