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. to approve
2. to boycott
“I cannot sanction what you’ve done”—
So said the Judge that Judgment Day,
And I could only think, “Which one
Of that word’s meanings is in play?”
I found out later when I stepped
Inside the elevator. (Frown.)
For there I learned the secret kept:
Yes, all the buttons were for “Down.”
And when the elevator doors
Drew wide—it wasn’t all that neat.
For we had dropped so many floors—
And, oh, infernal, hellish HEAT!