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.
1. an immobile mass of stone (or figuratively similar phenomenon)
2. a shaking or unsettling movement or action
Old Ahab stood there, like a rock,
While grim old Moby-Dick attacked.
He tolerated no loose talk—
He hated Moby, that’s a fact.
He felt the boat, its troubled rock,
And knew they’d very likely sink.
He hummed a tune from J. S. Bach—
As life itself seemed on the brink.
The whale had won—that’s no surprise.
Destruction was both sure and quick,
And left were only Ishmael’s eyes …
And this: Don’t mess with Moby-Dick!