Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sound and Sense, 75

We’re moving next to the homophone: a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air. So … contronyms are words that have contradictory meanings (sanctiion = approve and disapprove; homophones sound alike but to not mean the same—and often are not spelled the same, either.

1. foul (adj.): very bad or unpleasant; evil  (noun): in sports—an action that is against the rules (verb): to make a place dirty; to commit a foul (see noun def.)
2. fowl (noun): a bird that is raised for food; any kind of bird (verb): to seek, hunt, or kill wildfowl

Macbeth was hunting on the moor—
A day so foul he nearly wept.
A witch had told him (he was sure!)
That he would have good luck—except,

Of course, if he would chance to see
What reason just could not explain.
I’m sure it’s in your memory—
Old Birnam Wood and Dunsinane?

He heard a fowl flap overhead.
He shot an arrow in the air—
(A line Longfellow wrote instead.)
He missed but didn’t really care.

There were no fouls in hunting then—
And only birds could foul a nest.
Macbeth would find a fouler sin—
At sinning he would be the best.

His fowling was not going well—
And Birnam Wood now seemed to move—
So he raced home to certain Hell.
He was corrupt—could not improve.

It was not long before Macduff
Removed that head so purely foul,
And Shakespeare, who had words enough,
Would write about the witches’ howl.

No comments:

Post a Comment