You know that an enhancement is something that adds features or quality to a thing, or at least is supposed to. Different people like different things, after all; one person’s enhancement is another’s gilding the lily, another’s meh, and another’s dehancement. (Is it a feature or a bug? Depends on who’s using it.) And while we think of enhancements as intended, it’s quite possible to enhance something accidentally – a happy mistake, perhaps.
And, since you know what de- tends to do to a word, you can easily guess what a dehancement is, even if you’ve never seen the word before. And, tidily, there are also both accidental dehancement and deliberate dehancement.
An accidental dehancement is something that is supposed to be an improvement but it kinda sucks, actually. We can all probably think of software “upgrades” that were like this. This is also where taste can come in. For instance, some people like the sounds and animations that might be added to a mobile app for a classic board game, and others cannot abide them at all. Some people like the cushioned detachment from the road you get in certain luxury cars and other people hate it; some people like the direct feel of control and connection you get in certain sports cars and other people hate it.
It can be seen in language history, too. Picture a word, say Latin inaltare, a verb formed from in (as an intensifier) and altus ‘high’. In one course of language change it becomes innalzare – the n grips longer; the t becomes that snappy “ts” sound spelled with that electric z. In another course of language change it becomes enhaucer, with the l softened to u and the t softened to c (said “s”) and a decorative h, and then it gets even a bit more padding with a nasal to make it enhauncer. And then it drops the inflectional ending and the u and also pronounces the h and becomes enhance. You tell me which (the Italian innalzare or the English enhance via Old French enhaucer) you think is an enhancement and which is a dehancement – if either is either.
And what is a deliberate dehancement? That’s where you make something worse on purpose. Why would you do that? Well, let’s say you’re offering a product such as an app for a classic board game. There’s a free version, and there’s a paid version. You obviously want to offer more features for the paid version, but you might not get away with limiting the functionality of the game itself, so to pay for the free app you include ads. Ads are only arguably a dehancement in themselves, but let’s say you include ads that intrude on the game play in increasingly obnoxious and distracting ways, even though never actually reducing the features of game play per se. You’re just irritating players enough that they will eventually give in and shell out for the paid version.* That’s a deliberate dehancement.
I didn’t make up this word, by the way. You’ll find it in good dictionaries – and in Urban Dictionary, which is full of entries that may be enhancements, dehancements, or both, depending on what you value. But the introduction of any usable lexical item to the language is an enhancement, as far as I’m concerned – and people who bemoan neologisms dehance my day, even if only accidentally.
* But if the paid version is $9.99 a month, it’ll be a frosty Friday in the devil’s den before I cough up that kind of extortion.