Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
If this is not an Eggcorn-Forum-friendly topic, please tell me, and maybe suggest where I might go with it.
I am interested in words and expressions which mean both what they say, and the opposite of what they say. For example, we need to “wind up” a toy or a watch to get it started. But we also “wind up” a project when we finish it.
At the same time, I am interested in another group of words and expressions which ought to be opposites, but mean the same. For example, a “shameful” liar is the same as a “shameless” liar.
Do these things have a name? Can you think of other words and expressions that fit these categories?
I think this forum is suitable for what you are seeking. And it certainly brings a breath of fresh air to hear your ideas. I will ponder the new categories you suggest.
All I can come up with on the spot is trite stuff like: “slow up” and “slow down”—having the same meaning although using words with opposite meaning in most other contexts. (I don’t know if the former is legitimate, but my mother would say it all the time, and I’ve heard others use it as well).
Actually, there is one other example I can recall: the verb “to table” means “to remove from consideration” in (American) English, but “to place on the agenda” (akin to placing on the table?) in British English. With any luck our British friends could verify this for us. American and British negotiation is sometimes difficult when someone says “table it” and no one knows exactly what that means!
After reading your example on “wind up,” my first thought is this: you should get your hands on a full list of homonyms and see what phrases you can make with them. Oh, wait… scrap that idea: I think you require the spelling to remain unchanged.
By the way, this is only your second post and already you’ve learned to put words in bold font. I’m jealous. Tell us how you do it.
Last edited by jorkel (2006-09-18 12:05:53)
Hmmmnnnhhh…. Looks like I may have to write up a little formatting tutorial one of these days.
Boldface requires an asterisk on either side of the word to be emboldened. Like this: * bold * but without the spaces between the word and the asterisks. So it’ll look like this: bold.
People who know a bit of the Textile markup language have a leg-up, but the rest of can go here: http://textism.com/tools/textile/
It’s really useful—we could all be doing a lot more formatting than we are.
Slow Up means the same as Slow Down. That is a good one. Thank you. This makes my original example (above) stronger, too: Wind Up often (but not always) means the same as Wind Down.
Many slang examples mean their own opposites, e.g. “a cool response” can be either a bad thing or a good thing. But I know there are some more profound examples out there, real words, not just slang. I will report when they come around again in my mind’s background music. If you hear any in your own head, please share here.
Last edited by foilsafe (2006-09-18 15:08:11)
Flammable and Inflammable mean exactly the same thing (not profound yet, but working toward).
And Yet... I found a more profound example of a word which means its own opposite: Yet.
In my part of the world, a city person might ask, “Is Santa there yet?” This city person would mean: Has Santa arrived, or is he still on his way?
However, if a country person asked the same question in the same words, “Is Santa there yet?”, this country person would mean: Is Santa still there, or has he left already?
But the city person should not feel superior. That same city person might use both these senses of yet in the same sentence. Any city slicker might say, “And yet (= still, the country sense), Santa is not here yet (= so far, the city sense).”
A couple more ups and downs: to lay up can mean to store, or set aside, while to lay down can mean the same thing, as in laying down a wine for the future; to set up/down can both mean to place or settle into position.
Jorkel is quite right about the English use of ‘table’, but I’ll pretend I didn’t notice the bit about the spellings remaining the same and throw in (throw out?) the obvious ‘raze’ and ‘raise’.
...and surely there’s a sense in which being ‘tied up’ ties you down?
I actually like your example of raze / raise.
It may not work in written form,
but it sure works orally / aurelly.
“Toss out” can mean two somewhat opposite things: 1. to discard, or 2. to offer (as an idea) for consideration. ...It’s almost like the American and British definitions of the verb “table” which I discussed earlier! Isn’t that curious!
So, to put it another way…
The verb “table” can mean “toss out” or “not toss out” depending on whether you are an American or a British speaker—and irrespective of what you mean by “toss out”!