dystopian or dystopic ?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by John McCloud, Feb 11, 2013.

  1. John McCloud Member

    Paris region
    French - France
    How would you describe "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell ? A dystopian novel or a dystopic one ? Wordreference only gives the adjective "dystopian" but I have found "dystopic" in some texts. Which one would you use? Would there be a difference, assuming that "dystopic" does exist ?
    Many thanks.
  2. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    In almost all contexts, you should probably use "dystopian," which is the common word in English. ("Utopian" is also much, much more common.)

    It would be possible to use "dystopic" only as an explicit contrast to "utopic," which, although it is a word in English, has a more restricted sense and some different connotations than "utopian."
  3. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I recently heard "dystopic" uttered (by Stephen Colbert, if my memory serves me well) on TV and was mightily distressed. My digital OED does not accept it. I believe lucas-sp's comment is spot on.
  4. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    I've never heard "Nineteen Eighty-Four" described as dystopic - only dystopian. For what it's worth, here's the Google Ngram Viewer treatment (which I found sightly surprising).
  5. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    Again I heard "dystopic" on TV (last night) spoken by Jon Stewart. My guess is that, because of this influence, this form will become more popular. (cf. Harding's "normalcy")
  6. MacRutchik

    MacRutchik Member

    I'm wondering if the words "dystopic" and "dystopian" actually are beginning to have slightly different meanings such that, despite the "official"-ness of the latter, there is a value to the distinction. (My Mac software, is telling me in this very moment, that I better use dystopian, or I'll be in big trouble. In the context of 1984, yes, definitely that is a dystopian future, but I can actually see the case for saying that it is a dystopic film.Dystopian seems to fit better when describing a future far ahead, such as the Eloi of Orson Wells. I say people should go ahead and use whichever one sounds best to them in the sentence they're writing. Sure, if it makes no difference, use dystopian, but I would still not hesitate to say the Blade Runner is a a dystopic film rather than a dystopian one.
  7. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I am sorry, but I don't understand what distinction you see between them. Could you explain in more detail?
  8. MacRutchik

    MacRutchik Member

    Well, maybe I'm putting too fine a point on it (or perhaps I'm simply wrong!) but I'll try explaining how I see the distinction: The word dystopian, is, obviously the opposite of utopian. Just as utopia conveys a sense of a world being unrealistically perfect, a dystopia would be a world which is "perfectly" horrible -- to the point that it is unrealistically horrible. To me, the notion of say, a dystopic future, would be a world that is wretched, but not inconceivable, not the precise opposite of utopian. So perhaps I'd go so far as to say that all "dystopian" futures are also dystopic but that not the reverse. Dystopian connotes a level of everything being as wrong as it could be, while dystopic is less absolute and less the literal opposite of utopia. One could almost say that our current world is pretty darn dystopic, though it would be wrong to say it's a dystopia. I would use dystopian if I were writing a thesis or an academic paper, but I think dystopic is common enough and subtly different enough that its use is justified in less rarefied environments.

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