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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Idioms

Autoantonyms Speak with a Forked Tongue

Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2016, at 7:29 am

An autoantonym (pronounced auto-ANTA-nim) is a word with two opposite meanings. A familiar example is the Hawaiian word aloha, which means both “hello” and “goodbye.” Autoantonyms (also known as contranyms, contronyms, and Janus words) are not rare. We see, hear, and use them all the time. Too often, miscommunication ensues. It’s awful when you think you said “purple” but the whole world …

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They Never Said That

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2015, at 2:09 pm

The popular culture has always had an uncanny ability to misuse, misinterpret, misrepresent, and misquote. Its adherents believe that Columbus discovered America and George Washington had wooden teeth and dog saliva cleanses flesh wounds. The other day I heard a goofy radio guy say, “Till death do we part.” He thought “do us part” was …

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When Idioms Become Monsters

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at 9:52 am

Close but no cigar, fly off the handle, he is pulling your leg, I was beside myself—we see idioms like these all the time, even though the closer we look, the less sense many of them make. Sometimes two familiar expressions get jumbled. When that happens, the result is what you might call a “Frankenstein …

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