Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sound and Sense, 82

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. gnu (noun): wildebeest
2. knew (verb): past tense of know; to have information of some kind in your mind
3. new (adj.): not old; recently born, but, or created
4. nu (noun): the 13th letter of the Greek alphabet

The gnu knew nu—he'd studied Greek,
To him a language very new.
But knowledge—ever!—he would seek.
It’s what, he felt, he ought to do.

And so a gnu professorship
At Harvard soon was put in place.
His classes were not wise to skip:
A wildebeest can hurt your face!

He had a very long career—
His honors many (not a few).
But then the words we hate to hear:
“It’s time we hired a new Prof. Gnu.”

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