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 supervise
2. to neglect
Today, the boss got on my case—
In fact, got right up in my face.
“Why did you, Dan, again misplace
My very favorite dirty book?
It’s not a thing to overlook!
I’m thinking now … perhaps you took
It from its special hiding spot!”
“Oh no!” I cried. “Oh, I would not
Deprive you of a text so hot!
“I overlook this office, sir,
And would not let some filthy cur
Rip off your things—do you concur?”
And this is how some peace returned—
Some peace I hadn’t really earned.
I had the book—which no one learned.
I put it back—oh, clever I!
And he was pleased—oh, stupid guy!
Oh, what a saving grace, a lie!