Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: What word is its own worst enemy?

June 17, 2013

Meet the most conflicted word in the English language: the contronym. A contronym is a word that is its own opposite. Can’t imagine such a paradoxical word? How about a story problem: If three people were in a room but two left, how many are left? The word “left” means both to leave and to remain behind. In spring you trim a tree by taking bits away, but you add bits when you trim the tree for Christmas. You turn off an alarm when it starts to go off. There are plenty of contronyms hiding in our language, but we usually don’t notice them because we’re only focusing on one meaning at a time.

Grammar Rules Plates, $12.50


  • Reply Jane in KC June 19, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Those look wonderful! Where can I buy them?

  • Reply MoHub June 20, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Context is everything. However, Nathan’s post doesn’t really relate to the text on the plate and mug.

  • Reply cassie June 21, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks, Jane. The Grammar Rules Plates are available here: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/grammar-rules-plates

    Cassie | UncommonGoods

  • Reply Libs June 28, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Cute idea! Could get some good meal conversations going, or provide last minute studying before a grammar test. I grew up with an English teacher for a Father. He would’ve loved these! Just wish they were more sanely priced. I’d certainly buy them all if they were.

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