Friday, July 8, 2016

Sound and Sense, 34

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.

wear verb
1. to endure
2. to deteriorate

“These tires will get you splendid wear”—
So said the salesman (debonair).

Well, they did wear, the buyer found.
For when he took a look around

Just weeks beyond the tire sale,
He saw that all were soon to fail:

As smooth as glass—no tread at all.
He quickly made an angry call.

But no one answered at the store:
It wasn’t there, not anymore.

And so he learned a lesson sad.
The cheapest things are often bad,

And though it’s really far from right,
Some outfits are just fly-by-night.

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