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 soften
2. to strengthen
“Please temper your remarks,” he urged.
"Your passion should be somewhat purged.”
“I’ll temper them,” I said. “I feel
I’ll temper them like finest steel.”
"That's not exactly what I meant,”
My boss replied. So then I went
A bit berserk. He was surprised—
Had never seen me exercised.
And so he fired me—sweet old me!
But now, at last, I’m free! I’m free!
My newest friend is Penury—
Which happens with no salary.