Thursday, May 9, 2013


Meaning: Those self-contradictory words listed in emails about the craziness of English; 'to dust', for example, can mean removing something or adding something.  As Cotgrave says:
A doubtfull, or double, meaning in one, or many, words.
Usefulness: 1 ("We like to call this the amphibologies building; our sales team and legal team share the space.")

Logofascination: 1 (Partly because it seems to be the theme this week - see below - and partly because it means I can use one of my favourite Much Ado About Nothing quotes: "There's a double meaning in that!"  Also because since I learnt that the Greeks had this problem, I wonder if they had the equivalent lists of the wackiness of the Greek language.)

In the wild: So, this week Stan Carey discussed fulsome, and linked to his previous post on chuffed (which is where I ran into amphibolous) and the ever-awesome Dinosaur Comics take on these things. LTA then mentioned auto-antonyms and a plethora of posts on the classical variety, and then (no, really) Ed Latham wrote an excellent-but-annoying* post about literally becoming (already being?) one of these words, not that he used any of the fancy technical terms.

Degrees: 1 (Another reason for my logofascination; Sir Thomas and Rabelais both used this word.)

Connections: n/a

Which is used in: Book the Third, XIX: How Pantagruel praiseth the counsel of dumb men. It's the first non -mancy Thursday for a long time, but we can't escape the prophecies:
the surest and most veritable oracles were not those which either were delivered in writing or uttered by word of mouth in speaking. For many times, in their interpretation, right witty, learned, and ingenious men have been deceived through amphibologies, equivoques, and obscurity of words, no less than by the brevity of their sentences. For which cause Apollo, the god of vaticination**, was surnamed Loxias.

*I mean, really, he points out how really could probably have once meant, well, real, and is now just used for emphasis or interjection... unless, of course, you really mean it.

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