Friday, July 1, 2016

Sound and Sense, 27

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.

strike verb
1. to hit
2. to miss in an attempt to hit

So Mighty Casey (at the bat)
Had eyes that just refused to see. 
He struck, at last—the pitch looked fat—
He missed ... and so … oh well, Strike Three!

And in the stands, unhappy fans
Decided they would start a fight.
They struck each other (such were plans)
And so this brawl just raged all night.

They used up almost all the dark,
Consuming it with bloody blows.
The clock struck four—a gory park!
They went home with the rooster’s crows.

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