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Word of the Day: "Unkempt" vs "Unkept"

This grammar-and-beauty geek is holding fast to the word that means dishevelled, slovenly, untidy hair, clothing and style. She's not-so-much down with the word a lot of people are starting to use instead.
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Robert Pattinson_RPatz_unkempt_untidy_scruffy

I know I'm fighting a losing battle. But because I've been a grammar geek longer than I've been a beauty geek, I am compelled to point out that the word you want is UNKEMPT. It means slovenly, dishevelled, untidy. The word is not "unkept."

unkempt not unkept

Definition of unkempt
From the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
1: not combed (unkempt hair)
2: deficient in order or neatness (unkempt individuals; unkempt hotel rooms); also rough, unpolished (unkempt prose)


I'm fighting a losing battle because language changes with the masses. The more people use a particular word or phrase, the more entrenched it becomes. Consider "text" as a verb, for instance -- although that doesn't bother me because it describes a form of communication that did not exist until shortly before the word was appropriated.

I'm having trouble with the increasing popularity of "unkept" used to mean sloppy hair, clothing or style. It hurts me the way the horrifying "wish I would of (known)" hurts me when used instead of grammatically correct "wish I had (known)." Gah!

To me, "unkept" is related to Damn, where the heck is that sugardaddy I want to take care of me and keep me in high style?

For most people these days, especially tweeters blasting 16-year-old US gymnast and gold-medalist Gabby Douglas' hair, "unkept" has become the word they use to describe something messy. Of course that means "kept" hits their radar as the positive side to unkept -- which it is if you're talking sugardaddy, or sugarmomma if you prefer.

The correct term is kempt -- and it's a tad confusing because the same Merriam-Webster Dictionary folks say it means "neatly kept." *sigh*

Jon Hamm_unkempt_dishevelled_sloppy_scruffy

The word unkempt comes from an Old English word that means "to comb" -- or not combed, actually. It's the ideal descriptor for, say, Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2), Paz de la Huerta ("Boardwalk Empire") and Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") on (mostly) their days off.

Unkept isn't entirely wrong; it means uncared for, or badly maintained -- but specifically in relation to a place, or pinky-swear. As in an unkept apartment, or TTC subway station, or promise.

Some nice readers will want to remind me that English isn't a dead language. Dudes, I know. *sigh*

Others will want to point out that unkept is valid because people -- news organizations, apparently -- make it so.

I'm sticking with unkempt. #geekforever

Are you Team Unkept? Or Team Unkempt?