Written Rambles Words That Contradict Themselves Tyler Vendetti

Someone told me the other day that “moot” had nothing to do with a cow’s opinion and I was utterly shocked. (Actually, that might’ve been part of a Friends episode I saw once. I get their lives confused with my own, sometimes.) I’m kidding, but someone did tell me that “moot” has two contradictory definitions, which was almost as shocking. As I began to research this claim, I stumbled on a whole new world of words called contronyms (sometimes spelled contranym or alternatively called antagonyms), or, words that have two separate, but nearly opposite, meanings. Impossible? Take a look:

Moot: (adj.) debatable; deprived of practical significance (not worthy of debate)

Not exactly opposites but not exactly the same either, these two definitions both apply to moot. One can say, “We can argue who called dibs on Brad Pitt first but it’s a moot point because he’s already married with kids and that’s just weird.” One can also say, “Whether or not cats are better than dogs is a moot question because both have many admirable qualities.” Did I even use that correctly there? I don’t know. It’s a moot point because I’m moving on.

To buckle: (v.) to fasten or secure something; (v.) to weaken or collapse

This one literally blew my mind when I read it. Yes, I mean literally. There are pieces of my brain splattered on my living room wall that I’m still trying to clean off. I don’t know why I never considered the relationship between these two meanings. You can buckle under the pressure of your guilty mother who wants you to go on a scary roller coaster with her, or you could buckle the seat of the roller coaster and hold on for dear life. Both are acceptable. Neither definition ends well for you in this case.

Peer: (n.) one that is of equal standing with another; (n.) a member of one of the five noble ranks

I like this one, even if it is a little bit of a stretch. Peer usually means classmate or coworker, or someone that is of similar status to you. However, one of the word’s more archaic definitions specifically refers to peer as “a person of noble status” or, more specifically, a member of the British peerage. The two meanings are related in that the British peerage is a group composed of hereditary titles (everyone in the same family has to be of equal status, right?). The two meanings are not related in that I can talk with a regular peer about how broke and non-royal we are, but not an old British “peer.”

Oversight: (n.) an inadvertent omission; (n.) watchful and responsible care

This word is the noun form of the word “oversee” and “overlook,” so it’s kind of like the same word, but also not at all. When I didn’t get a letter from Hogwarts on my 13th birthday, that was an oversight. (My brother tells me I’m a witch all the time, and that’s where witches go, so they must’ve made an mistake.) The person that was given oversight of the Hogwarts Letter Committee is probably responsible. See the difference?

Commencement: (n.) the graduation ceremony for college students; (n.) the beginning of a project or event

What came first? Commencement meaning “the unofficial end of college” or “the beginning of something”? While I know commencement is supposed to represent “the beginning of a student’s life in the real world,” college kids don’t see it that way. They see it as the end of drunken dorm hookups, living with friends, and pre-prepared food. So in this case, the connotation of one definition contradicts the meaning of the other.

Strike: (v.) to hit forcibly and deliberately; (n.) a pitch that is swung at and missed by the batter

This term is kind of a hit or miss, literally. As a verb, strike means a hit while as a baseball-related noun, it means a miss. I can’t tell you how that happened because when it comes to sports, I’m lucky if I can play T-Ball correctly. Someone feel free to enlighten me.

Raveling: (v.) to entangle; (v.) to disentangle

According to Merriam-Webster, “raveling” means “to unravel” and “to entangle” at the same time. You could probably figure this one out using context but just to be safe, be sure never to tell someone during a bomb squad mission to start raveling the wires. (“You want me to tangle the wires up? Will that help stop the detonation or…”) It might get ugly.

Chuffed: (adj.) pleased; (adj.) displeased

This is the ultimate contronym. Chuffed, an informal British slang term, boasts two, completely opposite definitions. Someone found it in a paper dictionary too, if you don’t trust online dictionaries or something:

Chuffed

Moral of the story: Even words are imperfect, sometimes.

Image via Imgur

comments

Please help us maintain positive conversations by refraining from posting spam, advertisements, and links to other websites or blogs. we reserve the right to remove your comment if it does not adhere to these guidelines. thanks! post a comment.

  1. Magic folk get their Hogwarts letter on their 11th birthday, not 13th, so it’d be quite the oversight if you got it two years late.

  2. This blog is sooo bad.

  3. Any chance you’ll consider editing first sentence to read ‘udderly’ instead of ‘utterly’? *giggles* That’s how I read it anyway…

  4. I do love your posts, this one has really tickled me.
    To think I can now knowingly confuse my peers with the term ‘chuffed’ makes me feel a little happy inside =D
    I’m from the UK as well, so I shall leave it to you to decide whether I’m ‘a person of noble heritage’ or some poor sleep deprived blog junkie.
    Either way, I enjoyed the read, thank you!
    Dan AKA The Fervent Shaker

  5. This is awesome!

  6. Thanks Tyler. I really enjoy articles like this. Here’s another one:

    Cleave: (v.) to adhere firmly and closely or loyally and unwaveringly; (v.) to divide by or as if by a cutting blow

    • Ha! You beat me, I was just about to add that one. Cleave might be the best example of all time.

      • Sorry about that, Selena! (Actually, I refreshed the page just before posting it because I was pretty sure someone would beat me to it!) Great minds think alike, don’t you think?

HelloGiggles Podcast