Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Sound and Sense, 31

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.

trim verb
1. to decorate
2. to remove excess from

We had a Christmas tree to trim,
But I was full up—to the brim—
With all the orders straight from him.

“So how about we trim your nose!”
I barked at him—we were not bros.
“This knife,” I said, “a wise one knows,

Will trim you up so perfectly—
And (best of all) it’s all for free!”

And then he seemed to change his mind—
And suddenly turned very kind,
The kindest man that you could find.

And so his nose remained untrimmed.
And all my prospects now undimmed.
And later, sure, they found I skimmed

Donations from the offering plate.
By then I’d fled—another state—
Where, I confess, I’m feeling great!

I find there's very little crime.
And socially? No need to climb:
Our prison meals are right on time.

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