Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sound and Sense, 8

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.

consult verb
1. to offer advice
2. to obtain advice

He told the NSA that he
Was happy to consult.
He said he was an expert in
A certain kind of cult.

“We need,” the NSA declared,
“Before we can reply,
To meet, consult with others—
Just to see what kind of guy

You are.” And he said he’d consult,
As well, and let them know
If all this consultation meant
That everything was “go.”

The consultations carried on
Or many many years.
By then the parties noticed that
No one had any ears!

They all had simply fallen off
Because of overuse.
And so a warning: This is what
Consulting can produce.

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