Monday, June 6, 2016

Sound and Sense, 2

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.

aught noun
1. anything, whatever
2. a cipher, zero.

For aught she knew he must have been
The living image of all sin.
There was no crime he hadn’t tried—
Including service as a guide
For “personal wealth” (his own, she learned);
He stole from others—never earned
A single solitary U. S. dime.
Arrested, he spent endless time
In jails and prisons everwhere.
By then, of course, she didn’t care.

He asked what she had gone and bought;
She told him—lying—simply, “Aught.”
But he employed what he’d been taught.
And checked her bag—oh, she was caught!
With great emotion she was wrought,
So therapy she finally sought.
She liked her therapist—a lot—
And left her husband so distraught.
A kinder lover! (Food for thought!)

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