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Archive for the tag “antonyms”

Mismatched Meanings

We need to stop doubling up on words. The English language has all these words with multiple meanings that actually contradict one another. These words are called contronyms (or auto-antonyms) – words that due to their multiple meanings, are actually antonyms of themselves. Such as:

Scan – originally it meant to carefully peruse something thoroughly and completely, but it also now means to quickly skim over something.

This is especially frustrating because, unlike other homonyms, which meaning is meant is not always made clear in the context of the sentence.

‘Is she a careful editor?’

‘See for yourself. She scans through all the material.’

Is this promoting her editorial skills or denouncing them? Is she carefully reading through everything or just glancing over it?

Consult – to ask or seek advice

‘I sought consult’ vs. ‘I gave consult’

Custom – may mean the usual or unusual

‘that is the custom’

‘Her jeans are custom’

Dust – Either remove dust or sprinkle something

Fast – quick or unmoving

‘He ran fast’ vs. ‘he was stuck fast’

Handicap – can mean an advantage or a disadvantage

Left – as in ‘who’s left?’ Are you asking who is still remaining or who has departed? Although to be fair, this is only a problem due to the contraction. When you expand it to either ‘who has’ or ‘who is’ the meaning becomes clear.

Oversight – to watch over or supervise vs. a failure to notice something

Temper – tempering metal means to solidify, yet tempering chocolate means to melt

Seriously, the English language can just be bizarre at times.


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