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Image by Gabriele Stravinskaite


(c) 28 August 2020

“So you want me to use contranyms?”
“What are they?”
“Words that are their own contradiction – like you were telling me.”
“Oh, I was just wondering how something could stick fast but take 2 hours to do it.”
“That’s exactly it. A contranym. It’s slow to be fast.”
“Are you sure it’s not one of those anti-, anti-things?”
“An antonym? Well sort of. It’s when a word is its own antonym. Antonyms are generally different words that mean the opposite. Like hard versus soft, or wet versus dry. A contranym is the same word or phrase, but depending on its use, it can mean opposing things.”
“Oh, so I could say the lady was held up, but mean that she was either supported by some well-meaning Good Samaritan type, or have a gun pointed at her by a blood-thirsty thief?”
“Yes – you could mean either of two things. The reader will need to read the rest of the text around it to get the context.”
“Or you could pair them in a story and see if the reader can work it out.”
“Work out what?”
“Which meaning you meant.”
“Like apologising for an apology?”
“Yes, I never understood the term ‘apologetics’. I thought it meant that you were apologising for the truth.”
“You’re actually arguing for the truth. Or apologising for your apology.”
“If it’s true, why do you need to argue for it? Or apologise for it?”
“I’m not sure. It should be obvious. Like black is black, white is white and a trip is a trip.”
“Do you mean tripping over, or tripping, or taking a trip somewhere? Or tripping during a trip on a trip?
“Oh, now you’re just doing my head in!”
“Not really, You’re just stumbling while you’re going somewhere. Like having a go, but then your legs go and you can’t go.”
“Or you try to bound over the couch, but your legs are bound, so you’re downward bound.”
“And you’re left face-first in the carpet, wishing you’d left earlier.”
“But you can’t leave because you’re left dusting the floor with your nose.”
“Are you removing dust from the floor with your nose, or adding it?”
“I guess it depends on how much face powder you’re wearing.”
“Either way, it’s a handicap.”
“Is that good, like having a head-start in golf? Because your arms are free to undo your legs?”
“No, not that sort of handicap. I meant that you can’t get up as quickly as if your legs were free.”
“But you could be a mean dancer and flip up without using your hands.”
“Now you’re being mean. I think you do too many cryptic crosswords.”
“I do like puzzling over a puzzle with a nice cup of tea.”
“Ah yes, tea. That’s custom.”
“Why? I just drink normal English Breakfast with milk. There’s nothing custom about that.”
“No, I meant it’s a fine custom.”
“Fine as in ‘Well, that’s pretty ordinary’ or fine as in ‘I think that’s excellent’?”
“Oh seriously, this is messing with us both. It is a great thing that you drink an ordinary cup of tea. There, is that better?”
“Finally, something that’s clear. I think we need to refrain from using contranyms. They are too confusing.”
“But there’s another one.”
“What, ‘confusing’?”
“No, ‘refrain’. I’ve just realised that we can’t refrain from singing the refrain which is the bit in the song we repeat.”
“Oh, you’re kidding. They’re like mines, littering our vocabulary. We never know when we’re going to stumble over one.”
“What now?”
“You just found another one. Stumble. If I stumble over a rock, then stumble over a gold nugget, which one am I going to be happy about?”
“So you overlook the rocks, searching for something, but overlook a rock and fall over again. This trip is dangerous. I’m spending too much time on the ground.”
“But at least this time you found gold. Golden contranyms. Oh, the joy!”
“I’m winding this up.”
“So you’re trying to think of a better one?”
“Arrrgh, no! Just putting it out there, I want this to stop. My brain hurts.”
“Like putting out a fire, or an idea?”
“Go away.”
“Like when the stars are out, they shine brightly, but if my lamp is out, I can’t see a thing?”
“I’m turning your lamp off now. This is finished.”
“Sounds like you are too.”

Contradictions: Work
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