Friday, January 23, 2009

"Wait, inflammable means flammable?"

Inspired by this post, over at Metrolingua, I did a little internet research into contronyms, also known as antagonyms, or, more properly, autantonyms. (And from what I can gather so far, these terms are all synonyms of each other.)

I found a few fun sites on the topic, and thought I'd share. It's Friday and that's a good day to keep linguistics light and enjoyable.

The Wikipedia entry for auto-antonyms (a fourth variant of the term) is surprisingly good, including coinage dates, solid examples, and Janus-word lists (No. 5 now). Like this one: here, which states that it was last updated on Jan. 1, 1999. That's a timestamp to be pretty proud of when you think about what the internet was, over a decade ago!

Also, this link, here, is fun for perusing antilogies (#6!) It gives simple explanations of each contradictory meaning, as well as a brief explanation by Bob Fradkin about the origin of enantiodromes. (Seven and are we still counting?)

I tried to come up with a few of my favorite self-antonyms. "livid" springs to mind; as does "sect/secular." Not quite the same word in that last example, but a combo that has befuddled and befriended me, falsely, for many years. There's another one, I can't remember right now, but its on the tip of my tongue (perhaps literally?)...It means "caring" or "not caring at all" and sounds like "null" or something equally sonorant+y. Wonderful clues, I know, but this is how my brain works. Anybody have ideas about the word I'm looking for? If no, then what are some of your favorites? Or anti-favorites? Do share.

Or just enjoy all the contradictions — they're everywhere.

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