What'd he say?
September 18, 2003 10:29 AM   Subscribe

"Comrades! As we clip our belts and prepare to cleave our forces for the difficult anabasis ahead, never forget the dike that is our ultimate goal. Remain here, unbending, until morning. But when the call goes out, be fast! Consult not your copemates, for such oversight shall screen our transparent objectives. And finally, never forget we have aught to lose!" --General Antonin Contronym [More Inside]
posted by rusty (18 comments total)
Unfortunately, the ensuing military action was an unmitigated disaster. Some forces joined up and advanced on a nearby seawall, while others separated and retreated by way of a handy drainage ditch. Many in both groups proceeded fully clothed, but quite a few were observed with pants flapping around their ankles. Survivors complained that a night of unbroken vigilance left them unprepared for the quick movement demanded on the following day, while yet others claimed that they had been ordered to relax overnight, and stay at their posts come morning.

Records kept by the enemy are even less enlightening. Some captured spies refused to speak at all, while others volunteered copious information about their general's plans. None of the information collected, however, squared with anyone else's claims.

A subsequent military investigation was rife with contentious claims both for and against General Contronym. Its report ultimately concluded that the leadership was "chuffed" with the General, pronouncing him "deceptively smart," and ordering that he be "flogged before the public as an example."
posted by rusty at 10:31 AM on September 18, 2003

That's one mean post, rusty.
posted by samuelad at 10:36 AM on September 18, 2003

Thanks, rusty. I remember the Car Talk guys going on about these, but didn't know they had a name (I assume Tom & Ray didn't either). One of theirs that's not on the list is sanction.
posted by soyjoy at 10:37 AM on September 18, 2003

by some freak of language evolution, are their own antonyms.

Words that pancake themselves, thanks Rusty.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:38 AM on September 18, 2003

Rusty uses his handicap well.
posted by mathowie at 10:39 AM on September 18, 2003

The Computer Contradictionary, by Stan Kelly-Bootle, has a list of auto-antonyms (aka "Janus words"). None of these appear to be online, though.

Also, more of these at http://www.psc.edu/~burkardt/wordplay/autoanto.html
posted by kurumi at 10:46 AM on September 18, 2003

Word fun -- always engaging. Thanks.
posted by davidmsc at 10:48 AM on September 18, 2003

You want Cleavisms?

Check out the "Ascend/Descend" buttons of any page on CLEAVE , the people who brought you Metaphilm (Aargh!)

Also, see the word "bolt" and the following:
Ø Chuffed
Ø Dust
Ø Inflammable
Ø Inhabitable
Ø Inscient
Ø Left
Ø Let
Ø Overlook
Ø Peruse
Ø Pink
Ø Presently
Ø Quite
Ø Ravel
Ø Rock
Ø Sanction
Ø Scan
Ø Seed
Ø Trip
Ø Vapulate
posted by fedextruck at 10:49 AM on September 18, 2003

I think my head is going to explode from joy. A well written FPP, Rusty!
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:05 AM on September 18, 2003

Who in Congress has oversight over these?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:05 AM on September 18, 2003

Nice post
posted by davros42 at 11:21 AM on September 18, 2003

Not exactly a contronym, but somewhat related (and I'm not sure what they're called, if they even have a name): two words that can be either synonyms or antonyms depending on their usage. E.g., cause and effect. (Antonyms when used as nouns; synonyms when used as verbs.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:22 AM on September 18, 2003

What's always puzzled me is that both cleave and hew are contronyms in precisely the same way with identical contradictory meanings. Both can mean either to separate by cutting or to "hold closely to". A very odd effect of language.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:30 AM on September 18, 2003

Rusty, I think I love you.
posted by anastasiav at 1:47 PM on September 18, 2003

rusty = fresh
posted by soyjoy at 2:38 PM on September 18, 2003

rinky-dink - insignificant, one who frequents RinkWorks
posted by 4easypayments at 3:18 PM on September 18, 2003

In contemporary slang of course there are words like "bad", too. The best though (I think) has got to be "funky" -- great when it comes to anything artistic, but horrifyingly awful when referring to odors, tastes or (worst) bodily processes.... (You can even say something like, "The music was funky, but the smell was too" -- using both meanings of the word at the same time -- which you can't do with almost any of the other contronyms. It's wack, yo!)
posted by mattpfeff at 6:11 PM on September 18, 2003

mattpfeff: And what if you say "That DJ was funky!" :-)
posted by rusty at 8:38 PM on September 18, 2003

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