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Words with diametrical meanings

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Topic: 9) Words with diametrical meanings (1 of 16), Read 179 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Wednesday, December 09, 1998 02:05 PM

Michael Fischer, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, writes: "Is there a word that describes words which have two directly opposing senses? Examples of this phenomenon include 'cleave,' 'overlook/oversee,' and 'sanction.'

"Jesse Sheidlower (of 'Jesse's Word of the Day') suggested 'Janus words' or 'auto-antonym,' and I found a Web site that calls them 'antagonyms,' but I was hoping for something with more ... appositeness."


The "Johnson" column in The Economist addressed this issue, oh, it must be three or four years ago now. I can't find the clip in my files, darn it. Has anyone else studied this question? "Antagonyms" are pretty few in number. Does someone happen to know what the others are?


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Topic: 4) Words with diametrical meanings (2 of 16), Read 176 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Michael Fischer (tsuwm@aol.com)
Date: Wednesday, December 09, 1998 04:02 PM

one amusing example (which some will disqualify) is "gruntle" which, by back-formation from disgruntle, means to put in good humor; but its original, now obsolete, sense was to grumble or complain (grunt).

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Topic: 9) Words with diametrical meanings (3 of 16), Read 178 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Wednesday, December 09, 1998 05:48 PM

You're right -- I'm not sure that one counts as an example of what you were talking about in your letter. All the same, it gruntles me.

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Topic: 4) Words with diametrical meanings (4 of 16), Read 85 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Julian Burnside (burnside@owendixon.com)
Date: Friday, December 18, 1998 02:55 AM

It is generally assumed that "gruntle" is a humorous back-formation from "disgruntle". PG Wodehouse popularised this idea in one of the Jeeves books.
In fact, "gruntle" has a long history, dating from at least 1596. It means originally the snout of a pig, and by extension the contented grunting sound made by a (contented) pig. In this second meaning it existed as both noun (the sound) and verb (making the sound).
The verb "disgruntle" (and hence "disgruntled") came later: about 1682, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Julian Burnside

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Topic: 4) Words with diametrical meanings (5 of 16), Read 161 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Julian Burnside (burnside@owendixon.com)
Date: Wednesday, December 09, 1998 10:03 PM

"Enantiodromic" accurately describes this phenomenon.
I have written a short article on the subject, at
http://www.ozemail.com.au/~burnside/Self-contradicting.htm
Julian Burnside

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Topic: 9) Words with diametrical meanings (6 of 16), Read 158 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Thursday, December 10, 1998 09:50 AM

And an impressive bit of scholarship it is. Thanks, Julian!

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Topic: 4) Words with diametrical meanings (7 of 16), Read 128 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Jonathan Gellman (kirschgell@earthlink.net)
Date: Sunday, December 13, 1998 11:27 PM

The concept of self-opposed words might be described by a neologism: "schizonym."

- Jonathan Gellman

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Topic: 9) Words with diametrical meanings (8 of 16), Read 131 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Monday, December 14, 1998 11:57 AM

I like this one a lot. Now here's a political correctness vs. oversensitivity question: When The Atlantic uses the word "schizophrenic" in anything other than its strict medical sense -- uses it to mean "of two minds" or "ambivalent" -- we often hear from advocates for the mentally ill telling us that the word is inappropriate to such contexts. Does "schizo-" in a coinage like this bother anyone here?

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Topic: 4) shizophrenic as meaning undecided (9 of 16), Read 125 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Judy Lewis (emjclewis@earthlink.net)
Date: Monday, December 14, 1998 04:44 PM

Barbara, this is very different from the "antagonyms" idea which is funny by the way.

I am not generally in favor of PC language ....it is awkward and overdone.What you are describing with the misuse of shizophrenic is similar to saying some social ill is a "cancer".The reason mental health advocates opposite your usage in the context you describe is that it is no only a creative use of a word but a mistaken one that perpetuates a misunderstanding of a mental illness.Shizophrenia is NOT a split personality...NOT being of two minds.Using the term in that manner promotes ignorance concerning a serious illness. While I don't find using the word out of context particularly offensive, it should at least reflect so related truth.

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Topic: 4) Yes, but... (10 of 16), Read 122 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Heidi Schroeder (zincats@aol.com)
Date: Monday, December 14, 1998 09:24 PM

In this case (the coinage of the word "schizonym"), Jonathan Gellman is simply making use of the Greek skhizo, which means, simply, "to split". This word is the basis of "schism" and "schist", and is also the foundation (rightly or wrongly) for "schizophrenia".

In other words, there is no reason to assume that Jonathan had the disease in mind when coining the word.

I think "schizonym" is very clever!

-Heidi


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Topic: 4) Yes, but... (11 of 16), Read 120 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Judy Lewis (emjclewis@earthlink.net)
Date: Monday, December 14, 1998 09:33 PM

I was answering Barabra's question whether anyone found the use of "shizophrenic" in a sense other than the illness offensive. I said I wasn't offended but understood why mental health advocates disliked it.The question was whether saying "I feel shizoprenic about that" was offensive. I am aware of the origins of the word and if you really want to get technical"shizoprenia" is probably a bad name for the mental disorder it describes.
In any case use of "shizonym" is entirely different and ,yes, it's clever.

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Topic: 4) Yes, but... (12 of 16), Read 120 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Heidi Schroeder (zincats@aol.com)
Date: Monday, December 14, 1998 09:45 PM

...if you really want to get technical "shizoprenia" is probably a bad name for the mental disorder it describes.

It sounds like it *does* lead folks into a misunderstanding of the disease, as you pointed out in your earlier post. Maybe we should ask Barbara to make this a Word Fugitive topic -- i.e. scientific words that are inaccurate and/or misleading!

-Heidi






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Topic: 4) Yes, but... (13 of 16), Read 120 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Julian Burnside (burnside@owendixon.com)
Date: Tuesday, December 15, 1998 07:27 AM

Good idea, which I will now distort slightly: scientific expressions which are OK when coined but are then misused in popular use, eg: quantum leap (which is used as meaning a very great move, but originally means the smallest possible shift; and black hole, which is used to mean a void, but properly refers to the consequence of teh presence of an enormous mass.
Julian Burnside

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Topic: 9) Since you asked (14 of 16), Read 120 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Barbara Wallraff (msgrammar@theatlantic.com)
Date: Tuesday, December 15, 1998 11:46 AM

All right, my dears, you've got it. Stay tuned ...

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Topic: 9) Words with diametrical meanings (15 of 16), Read 94 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Jason Taniguchi (jasont@ccp.ca)
Date: Wednesday, December 16, 1998 06:21 PM

From the Award-Winning Toronto Serial Diners Collective:

We like "antagonym" a lot. But we have a few others too.

It was observed that an "oxymoron" is a phrase that contradicts itself, so a word that contradicts itself should be an "oxynym". (Or, as one Diner amusingly observed, the next step down from an "oxymoron" should be the gentler "oxydoof".)

We also suggest: "hypocriticalonym" (stress on the third-last syllable), "politicianym", and "Perotnym".

One Diner suggested, not without bitterness, that an example of a word with two opposite meanings was "marriage". No comment.

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Topic: 9) Words with diametrical meanings (16 of 16), Read 86 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Michael Fischer (tsuwm@aol.com)
Date: Friday, December 18, 1998 02:53 PM

This discussion prompted me to revisit C. Ellis's "Antagonyms" web page (the search results would seem to indicate that the word has reached a certain level of acceptance on the web) where I found this disclaimer:

"No, we never knew that antagonyms have previously been called "contronyms" until M___ I___ emailed us. Apparently the term "contronyms" was coined by Richard Lederer in Crazy English (Pocket Books, 1989, ISBN 0-671-68907-X). Mark has listed several dozen contronyms in the alt.usage.english FAQ."

Anyway, I still have a sort of negative reaction to antagonym, probably because Ellis includes many bogus examples (IMHO); so I think I am going to come down in favor of contronym. Thanks for all the great input.

Oh, and here are a couple more *good examples:

anabasis - this has two senses of military movement; advance and retreat.

peruse - this can mean to examine in detail or to look through in a cursory manner, or to read in a detailed or leisurely manner.

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Topic: antagonym (1 of 1), Read 29 times
Conf: Word Fugitives, with Barbara Wallraff
From: Vidark Bloom (vidarkblm@aol.com)
Date: Monday, December 21, 1998 12:33 AM

I've always heard them referred to as antithetical words...but that may be an awkward locution.

"Individual," initially, was antithetical: it referred to God's three "in-dividual" (indivisible but separate) persons.


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