Words that Contradict Themselves

05 Dec 2019


If you have read our blogs Why the English Language is a Writer’s Nightmare and Are There Any Synonyms for Synonym?, you are well aware that we think the English language is crazy and confusing.

But, have you ever taken the time to actually stop and think about just how crazy it is?

We have way too many words that are either spelled the same way, but pronounced differently (read and read, advocate and advocate), or are pronounced the same way, but are spelled differently and have completely different meanings (to, too, and two; there, their, and they’re).

And don’t even get me started on all of the words that are have multiple different meanings, such as current, reservation, and patient.

Perhaps most confusing, though, are the word that are their own opposites. As demonstrated in this great article from MentalFloss, these words—known officially as contronyms— take the chaos of the English language to a whole other level.

Take the word left, for example. Depending on how it is used, it can either mean that something is remaining, or that it has departed:

The girls left the party, so only the boys were left.

Buckle is another good example. It can either mean to fasten something together (with a belt), or to bend or collapse from pressure:

He buckled his seatbelt, but it buckled under the pressure of the crash.

Honestly, with this kind of madness, it’s a wonder that anyone can learn English!

So, next time you hear a non-native speaker butcher our language, keep these things in mind and take it easy on them. After all, the fact that you can understand them well enough to pinpoint the few things they messed up on is nothing short of a miracle!

Jennifer Rizzo 
Jennifer Rizzo is a Denver based writer with a background in Healthcare, International Tour Management, Genealogical Research, and a passion for travel and languages. She studied Spanish at the University of Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico and also lived and studied in Ancona, Italy. After spending nearly a decade working in the health care field, Jennifer has a well-rounded knowledge of hospital functionality, medical terminology, and disease processes. She has extended work experience with government medical benefits as well as Social Security law, which has allowed her to fine-tune her ability to sort through large amounts of medical records, research, and data, and turn that information into well written reports and case briefs. Since joining The Writers for Hire, Jennifer has written on vast array of topics and has done many in-depth ancestry research and family tree projects. She has worked as Project Manager for various client websites and RFPs, as well as other projects. She enjoys working closely with clients, and loves any opportunity that allows her to indulge her creative side.

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