Contronyms and Clarity
The word “cleave” is an enigma—first itself and then its opposite,
for it can mean “to cling to” but it also means “divide or split”.
What’s with the English language, with words meant to confuse?
Why bother to define a word that seems meant to abuse
our reason and ability to know what a word means?
Has our whole lexicology reverted to our teens
where “bad” is “good” and “sick” is “amazing, awesome, cool?”
What’s with these double meanings that make me feel a fool?
Do you believe the world of words has somehow let you down?
You imagine you’re a scholar, but turn out to be a clown?
That “hold up” means “support” but also “impede” is mendacious.
What next? Will “roomy” come to mean both “cramped” as well as “spacious?”
A rock is something solid—the opposite of jerking.
So why does “rocking out” involve this gyrating and twerking?
Someone “left” remains but one departed also “left.”
What happens in a language where there is not a cleft
between what a word means and its opposite as well?
Have we run out of ways to enumerate and spell?
Are there not sufficient different words to go around?
Must we ascribe to opposites the same spelling and sound?
Though it’s anything but spartan, must our language play the fool
and accept a meaning for a word that clearly breaks the rule
that a word must stand for something clearly understood?
That a word can mean its opposite ultimately would
turn “black” to “white” and “white” to “black”, turn “happiness” to “sadness,”
and once given this opening, our world would turn to madness.
If “yes” meant “no,” how many brides would be sadly wed
when they meant to marry another man instead?
If “up” meant “up” but also “down,” how would folks reach their floor?
And imagine the concussions if “solid wall” meant “door.”
So, so much for contronyms. Let us cease to spout them.
It’s clear enough to me the world is better off without them!