Trivia Teaser

On which part of the body would galoshes be worn?

Head
Hands
Arms
Feet

Consider this

30
Mar
2011
 

By Christine Lovatt

We often congratulate ourselves on how lucky we are that our English language has so many fine and noble words, rich in meanings, shades and subtle nuances, enabling us to describe an object or event to the nth degree.

However, have you ever noticed that there are quite a few words in the English language that have two meanings which are the exact opposite of each other?

Mad, for instance, means both very enthusiastic and very angry. To scan means either to scrutinise minutely or to glance at quickly. Sanction means approval or punishment. Terrific is great or frightening.

What a strange language it is, quite hysterical really - that is, frenzied with fear or wildly funny. Do we really know which meaning is intended in every case?

Sometimes we have to make a judgement depending on the user of the word. Some of our respectable senior citizens might appraise tattooed rock stars with nose rings, for example, as "wicked!" - the very same word that admiring teenagers would use, with opposite meaning.

In the case of our crosswords, we advise that you keep an open mind. In the dictionary, the word fast is defined as "facilitating rapid movement" or "firmly fixed, not easily moved".     

Refrain, in song, means to repeat a certain part. It also means to abstain (please refrain from swearing).

Cleave means to adhere closely or to split asunder. To have left could either mean to have departed or have still remaining.

It's a funny old language all right. Consider the word riot.  You may describe a good party as a riot, but would you really enjoy a violent clash with an unruly mob?

Presently, I am writing this article but in a short while, ie. presently, I will have finished. It's a wonder we have any idea what we're talking about!

Happy puzzling!

Christine

 

19 Responses to

Consider this

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said:
March 30, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Apparently those words can be called "Contranyms", "Auto-antonyms" or (my favourite) "Janus Words". Another good one is WEEDY - as in, "the garden is overgrown and weedy" or "the boy is underfed and weedy".

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March 30, 2011 at 10:07 AM

Cool is a great example too. I can be cool...ok with it, cool...distancing myself, cool....acceptable, wanted or popular. Hot can be used in the same way. It can be hot....stolen and not wanting anything to do with it or hot.....popular and wanted.

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March 30, 2011 at 10:51 AM

And of course, if you get into colloquialisms from different English speaking countries, you can really get into trouble. As I illustrated not long ago about my (English) husband's use.

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Tommo42 said:
March 30, 2011 at 3:46 PM

How refreshing and uncommon to read comments which are gramatically correct!

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spoggy said:
March 30, 2011 at 4:20 PM

with a 'tear ' in her eye , she knew that she had to 'tear ' up the invitation, she knew the leg 'wound 'would not heal in time as she 'wound 'the bandage around it , she had only ' cast ' off the 'cast ' 3 days before

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elmo7 said:
March 30, 2011 at 6:24 PM

The one that always springs to mind for me is resign. If you resign your job...are you quitting or signing up again???

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elmo7 said:
March 30, 2011 at 6:24 PM

The one that always springs to mind for me is resign. If you resign your job...are you quitting or signing up again???

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elmo7 said:
March 30, 2011 at 6:27 PM

oops..sorry for repeating myself..dont know what happened there! Could blame the computer but I know you wont believe me.

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March 31, 2011 at 1:31 AM

If you say a woman is "fair", you can mean she's beautiful or only average-looking -- not to mention blonde, or disposed to justice, or various combinations of these!

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ausme said:
March 31, 2011 at 9:18 AM

Goodness me! I'll stick with my own grasp of English. It generally expresses what I need to

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luddite said:
March 31, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Try the various uses of "up".

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crag43 said:
April 02, 2011 at 7:58 AM

A sign outside a London theatre some years ago said, "Cats! Pronounced Success!" ??

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Jf said:
April 03, 2011 at 6:48 AM

No fly zone: absence of diptera.

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mayabella said:
April 03, 2011 at 10:48 AM

The root word for hysterical is hyster/o, which is the medical term for uterus. Hysterical used to mean a woman suffering from women's 'issues'. Interesting stuff...

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mayabella said:
April 03, 2011 at 10:49 AM

I meant to add 'hysterectomy' to bring it back to the current vernacular. Cool, hey?

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April 05, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Another word would be lame... many of us would use it to mean for something to be boring or entertaining, but it also means to be crippled or physically disabled.

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April 05, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Sorry people, there was a mistake in my previous post. Where it said, 'boring or entertaining', it was supposed to say, 'boring or unentertaining'. Please excuse my mistake.

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hunted40 said:
April 14, 2011 at 6:04 PM

If you people think the English language is messed up you should check out the Quebec french. Now thats a laugh.

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kepp said:
April 16, 2011 at 6:46 PM

An innocent young male radiographer went to the UK to work. A young girl hobbles into the room for an ankle xray, and he asks her to take off her thong and hop up onto the table. He was shocked when she looked at him oddly and removed her knickers.