LINGUIST List 6.338

Sun 05 Mar 1995

Disc: Words that are their own opposites

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  1. "Jules Levin", RE: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites
  2. , 6.23 Words their own opposites
  3. A. Stenzel, Re: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites
  4. , words that are their own opposites
  5. "Jim Swanson", Re: 6.244 Words that are their own opposites

Message 1: RE: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Fri, 24 Feb 95 12:05:17 MSRE: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites
From: "Jules Levin" <jflevinucrac1.ucr.edu>
Subject: RE: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites

This doesn't quite qualify, but 'overlook' means the opposite of 'look
over': "My accountant looked over my records but overlooked a deduction..."

---
University of California
Riverside, CA 92521
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Message 2: 6.23 Words their own opposites

Date: 27 Feb 95 11:12:34 SAST-2 6.23 Words their own opposites
From: <ROGERbeattie.uct.ac.za>
Subject: 6.23 Words their own opposites

In regard to Sue Morrish's (does the apostrophe go there? looks
awful) on SHAME. I don't know what the connection is, if any (which I
doubt), but this is also absolutely stereotypical South African
usage, normally prefixed by 'ag' /ax/ = 'oh'. When you see something
in the general order of a kitten, a new baby, or anything that is
between cute and hyper-cute, you say

 s
 g h
 a a
 m
 e

 This is very crudely iconic: the fall is a big one, in some speakers
(especially female) at a rough guess a glissando down about a pure
5th, sometimes descending way below tessutura into creak or
breathiness.

There is of course also 'shame' (normally without 'ag') for things
that are a shame: here there's less of a fall, in fact often normal
citation contour, used where most other varieties of English use the
word, and where the preamble 'what a ---' is available, as of an
injury, divorce, or other catastrophe. This may be of no theoretical
interest, but we do need data on English, which I am beginning to
think is not a very well known language.

Roger Lass
Department of Linguistics
University of Cape Town
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Message 3: Re: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Tue, 28 Feb 1995 11:02:54 Re: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites
From: A. Stenzel <fs3a505rrz.uni-hamburg.de>
Subject: Re: 6.293 Words that are their own opposites

Hi

Sue Morrish quotes examples from Australian Aboriginal English where "shame"
is used to denote something quite opposite to its standard English meaning.

May I direct your attention to the fact that we speakers of Germanic languages
do not have to go that far afield to find similar examples? The German
word "schamlos" (=shameless) denotes exactly the same state as the Aboriginal
English expression "without shame". I take both forms as meaning "not knowing
the apprpriate rules of conduct within your community", these rules being
legal, religious or other. There is a German verb "sich schaemen", approx
"to shame oneself". It means that you know that you have violated those
rules, which appear to be universal to human society, regarding that both
the rules and their violation are expressed in such ways linguistiucally in
remote parts of the globe.

Achim Stenzel
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Message 4: words that are their own opposites

Date: 1 Mar 95 09:22:52 SAST-2
From: <ROGERbeattie.uct.ac.za>
Subject: words that are their own opposites

Just a note on Benji Wald's invocation of Varro. The technique of
etynology by opposites was very popular, even standard, in the Middle
Ages; just to get the Latin straight, I think it's lucus a non
lucendo in the usual usage. Isidore of Seville used the technique,
and it comes up in all sorts of contexts: two famous ones are

war is called bellum quasi non bellum (called bellum 'beautiful'
because it's ugly)

St Cecilia is supposed to have got her name in the formula Caecilia
quasi caecitate carens 'Caecilia because lacking (carens) in
blindness (caecitas, ablative sg caecitate governed by a caritive
verb).

I don't have my Chaucer in front of me, but I recall dimly that
somewhere in the Canterbury Tales is a passage about St Cecilia that
makes a play on sight and blindness in this way.

Roger Lass/University of Cape Town
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Message 5: Re: 6.244 Words that are their own opposites

Date: Thu, 2 Mar 1995 10:39:54 CRe: 6.244 Words that are their own opposites
From: "Jim Swanson" <SWANSONJcolumbia.dsu.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.244 Words that are their own opposites

I have not been able to follow the discussion on this subject, so
excuse me if my offering is redundant. But from experience, I know
of two words that have caused problems in casual discussions. One
was the word RENT. When one of my friends said that he was going to
rent his house, I was confused. I thought he owned his house. It
took some time to uncover the fact that he was he was going to "rent
out" his house for the winter to someone else. This is an example of
a relational antonym in which the same word indicates both sides of a
relationship. The word LEARN,I believe, once had the same potential,
and, in fact, is still used in some dialects to mean both "teach" and
"learn." Another word that caused me some problem was SANCTION,
which can indicate either general approval or general condemnation.
Check senses 1 and 7 in the American Heritage Dictionary.
Other words that caused me some surprise were the words
COMPENDIOUS and COMPENDIUM. I had always used these words to
indicate a large authoritative volume, a tome. I was shocked to find
that the dictionary (American Heritage) defines compendium thus: "a
short, complete summary." It defines compendious: "Containing or
stating briefly and concisely all the essentials; succinct." In
disbelief, I asked ten college professors in several academic areas
what the word meant. All agreed that it meant something large and
authoritative. Are there others out there who believe as we did,
before we were disabused. And, if the contrasting meaning is
pervasive, should it be included as another sense of the word?

Just asking.
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