Today’s “On Language” column in The New York Times addresses the rise of the prefix “un” in the time of increased computer use and social networking.

A word unmentioned in the article, but which I’m growing to love, is “unsee“. It’s a strange word, because, as the phrase goes, once you’ve seen something, you can’t unsee it (I think I was introduced to this unfortunate reality when someone showed me tubgirl. Which I will not link to. As I don’t want you to see it, much less vainly try to unsee it.)

A different use of “unsee” comes in China Mieville’s latest novel The City and The City, set in a geography where two cities literally overlap and integrate in space, and residents of one are raised from birth to “unsee” what goes on in the other. It’s a concept that appears bizarre at first, until you realize, as a city-dweller, just how much you unsee of what’s around you (homelessness, squalor, nefarious activity).