Our English dictionary has in it many words whose sounds and meanings can … confuse. In this next series of doggerel, I’ll be writing about several sorts of such words.
The first—the contronym: a word, says the Oxford English Dictionary, that has “two opposite or contradictory meanings.”
Earliest published use: 1962.
hold up verb
1. to support
2. to impede
She held me up when I was down—
She saved me when I thought I’d drown.
For me, she wore a wedding gown.
Then cheated—every guy in town!
He held up progress—every way—
Until we all began to say:
“There is no way that we can stay
In your employ.” And he said, “Hey,
You’re fired!” (Our boss just not play.)