Anti- vs. ante-, or what Doctor Who can teach us about usage

Picture of CD box with the words "fled to the anti-room."

I found this in the audiobook section of my local library.

I haven’t listened to it yet, but I’m anticipating a bizarre science fiction experiment involving dark matter, chaos theory and time travel. Or perhaps a story about intransigent teenagers and their living quarters.

Neither of those is what the author had in mind.

The problem involves confusion of prefixes.

Anti- is the more common of the two. We see it all the time:

anti-abortion

anti-tax

anti-drug

anti-plaid

anti-Em

Wait a minute. That’s Auntie Em, isn’t it?

Whatever the case, most people seem to know that anti- means against or opposite of. Perhaps because they have grown so used to anti-everything, they forget about ante-.

Ante- means before. Think of antebellum (before the war, or before the Civil War) and antechamber (essentially a waiting room, or a room before a room).

(An interesting aside: Bellum evolved from duellum, which to my ear sounds more like war than bellum.)

The writer of the book copy meant anteroom, which is essentially the same as an antechamber.

And an anti-room?

I’ve decided it’s either a place that explodes if it meets a room or it’s something that looks like the TARDIS.

I like the TARDIS idea better.

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