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.
2. activated (as an alarm)
I thought I turned the dumb thing off—
Was positive I did.
But when the fire alarm went off,
I simply ran and hid.
My boss, of course, knew where I hid—
And found me soon enough,
“I told you: ‘Turn the damn thing off!’”
I thought he sounded … gruff.
I cried and whimpered, made excuse—
My usual display.
But he was angry—burning up—
And fired me anyway.