I learned something new recently and while that isn’t Front Page News it does merit mention on these pages. What surprised me about this is that it had to do with the English language. I’m pretty good with my native language but this was something completely new to me.
I’m talking about: CONTRONYMS.
Growing up I learned about Synonyms, Homonyms, Antonyms, Paronyms, Pseudonyms, and even Acronyms, but I never heard of Contronyms.
Contronyms are words that have two contradictory meanings. They are really their own opposites.
I think I like Contronyms. They appeal to the rebel in me. They also may be an explanation I can fall back on when I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
While they may be somewhat rare in the Wide World of Nyms they are not obscure words. It’s their usage that makes them unusual. For Example…
“Apology” – A statement of contrition for an action, or a defense of one.
“Dust” – To add fine particles, or to remove them.
“Left” – To Remain, or to Depart
“Bound” – Heading to a destination, or restrained from movement.
These words, literally, can have you coming and going, hither and yon, to and fro, or even this and that.
I’m a fan of language. Without it I would have a really hard time writing this Blog. There would be a lot of blank space between the punctuation marks. It might be difficult to get my meaning across if my sentence looked like ” “, – ” !”
That might work if I wrote only on Monday mornings after a rough weekend and the readers had taken their vows of silence very seriously.
If I had never learned about Contronyms my life and my writing would not have changed all that much. When I am working on a Fiction Project it is usually a story with distinctively “Noirish” overtones. I try to create a shadowy mood and dialogue that is basic and to the point. Symbolism doesn’t get a lot of space on my page. I can’t imagine that my Fedora-wearing hero would be using very many Contronyms while skulking down the dark alleys down by the Waterfront. It might be a challenge though.
” I asked the night watchman if he’d seen the burglars.” He told me “I seen the men bolt.”
“Bolt I said? Was he telling me that the crooks had fled or that they were securely tied up?”
“Oh, No, Mister Detective. Bad guys left here.”
“He was at it again. They left or they were left here waiting to ambush me? What was this guy trying to do – confuse me?”
You see how using Contronyms would be an unneeded complication? If there is one thing I don’t need in my writing it is any sort of “Handicap.”
“Handicap” – An advantage provided to ensure equality, or a disadvantage that prevents equal achievement.