SOUND AND SENSE:
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 adhere
2. to separate
I vowed that I would cleave to her—
She vowed she’d cleave to me.
But later on she grew so bored
She wished she could be free.
And so she found a way that she’d
Be single once again:
She bought an axe and wielded it—
And cleaved my head in twain.
So in my grave I contemplate—
I guess it’s like a salve—
The ways that English words are weird—
Split meanings they can have!