Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sound and Sense, 21

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.

put out verb
1. extinguish
2. generate

He grabbed the fire extinguisher—
There was a fire to be put out
It happened in a flurried blur.
His boss was very pleased about

The effort that he’d just put out:
“You’ll get a raise—well, pretty soon,”
He promised, and there was no doubt
That promised raise? A Looney Tune,

The sort that bosses often sing
When in the flush of victory,
But here is just the damnedest thing:
That raise? Invisibility.

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