"Apple has dropped feature X" - they're revealed this new feature
"Apple has dropped feature X" - they no longer support this feature
Even further from being an auto-antonym, but positive and negative meanings both related to time.
For example, clip = to fasten originates from Old English `clyppan` (to embrace/clasp/surround), while clip = to cut originates somewhere Scandanavian, as in Old Norse' `klippa` (to clip/shear). Are those still homographs? I think a fair number of the list items are the result of convergent evolution.
Etymology is relevant to whether two words are cognates.
Still think this list would help every struggling learner of English.
You may be interested in linguistic descriptivism, as opposed to linguistic prescriptivism:
As I said elsewhere, when someone says "I've been waiting for days" and it's actually been minutes, we don't say "days sometimes means minutes". We say they were exaggerating for effect. It's a different use of the same meaning.
I think it's the same for "literally". Hyperbolic use of the original meaning. If "literally" meant "figuratively" we would expect to see sentences that would be interpreted as literal but for the inclusion of "literally", and I don't think I have ever seen one.
So are you prescribing to me that I must accept "figuratively" as a valid definition for "literally"?
My take is that language is a democratic activity. I never voted for the people who decided "they" must always be plural, and could never stand-in for a third-person singular of unknown gender. I think that use is simple, sensible, and solves a genuine problem in the language; every time I use "they" in the third-person-singular, I "vote" for that to be an acceptable use case.
On the other hand, the only reason to use the word "literally" is to say that this thing actually happened. That is the meaning of the word. Using it to mean "figuratively" doesn't fix a missing hole in the language; on the contrary, it opens up a hole, because low you don't know if the thing actually happened, or if the guy is just using the word "literally" to mean the opposite of "literally". If we just give up, and start saying "actually" instead of "literally", then eventually the same linguistic process will corrupt "actually", and all other variations, as well.
People who use the word "literally" as an intensifier are casting their vote for how to use the language. When I make fun of those people, I'm casting my vote, that I don't like their usage. I will continue to do so, and argue with anyone who disagrees with me, as long as it's practical to do so.
No, they are describing the fact that it is used that way, whether you like it or not.
That said, while I totally accept the usage, and don't have a problem with people saying "I literally died laughing" (because the phrase "I died laughing" is already on the face of it a statement of fact, and yet we have no problem understanding that it's figurative, so any modifiers -- I seriously died laughing, I totally died laughing -- are just intensifying the hyperbole), I personally don't think it should have been added to the dictionary.
People already use intensifiers when being hyperbolic (as above, "I seriously died laughing," "I totally died laughing"), we don't need to add to the definition of all of them. It's a valid part of the constellation of "intensifier + idiom," and each intensifier doesn't need to be singled out.
I think saying "I died laughing" is a fine idiom. But the continual slipping into "cranking up the volume", and having more and more words mean nothing, is bad for the language. So, I vote to oppose this.
You have a vote too. Think about the way you want the language to be, and then vote by using it that way, and / or arguing with people who use it the way you don't like.
Do you know Captain Literally?
We can be descriptive in saying that people use "literally" when they don't mean "literally" - we can also be descriptive when we label such people as ignorant of the meaning of the words they use.
Because that would be the worst. No one ever says something while meaning something else.
When, while sitting at the table, people ask me if I can pass them the water, I check if I can reach the bottle, I check if I'm close enough to them, then I say "yes, I can" and keep eating.
It seems like the Spanish and Portuguese could be literally taken as "what are hours?" ("intervals of sixty minutes!") (although I don't think it would be the most idiomatic way to ask that question in either language), while one German option is "how late is it?" ("not very!").
There's another German question which could be taken as "how much clock is it?", but since clocks are usually discrete objects, it might be quite a strain to try to take this as a question about something's clock-nature. (Maybe if you were looking at Dalí's Persistence of Memory, you could answer something like "this one is not very much clock".)
That position is normally termed prescriptivism, and AFAIK it's widely rejected by lexicographers and linguists and whatnot.
Include me among those who find it frustrating, but the meanings of words are more or less acquired by convention, and I think my side has been outvoted on this one.
Incidentally, I think one reason people get irritated by this is that some people prefer communication to be direct, unambiguous, and straightforward without relying on a lot of subtlety, context, guessing, or interpretation. I'd bet that programmers and other technically-minded people lean this direction more. So when people complain that this sort of thing is a violation of the rules, I think on some level they know that's not true, so I'm inclined to interpret it more like a plea or protest to avoid this style of indirect communication.
- "I could care less" meaning "I couldn't care less"
- "Entrée" meaning a main dish rather than a starter
If people do, what similar turns of phrase would they likewise mangle? "Well done son, I could be more proud", or "I'm completely thrilled, I could be happier", or "I'm at rock bottom, things could be worse".
"I couldn't care less" is a much clearer reference to being at this state of absolute-uncaring.
Regardless, I think this is just a result of people getting lazy with their language... it is not meant to be said in this say, and is properly stated, "I couldn't care less". In the US (can't speak for elsewhere) people just repeat what they think others have said, to convey what they think they understood. This is the source of a lot of language rot.
Another one is the pattern “all X are not Y.” Vs “not all X are Y.”
> “I could care less” is a bastardization of couldn’t care less.
I've come to the conclusion that this bastardization came from the way "--dn't c--" feels in the mouth. Lots of consonant sounds in a row. Drop the "n't" and it feels much better to say, even though the phrase becomes nonsense. You even get a little bonus alliteration.
"In Defense of I Could Care Less": https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/03/why-i-could-care-le...
> A number of language writers have suggested that “could care less” has a sarcastic reading, conveying something like “Ha! As if there were something in the world I could care less about.” There are some American Yiddish-inflected phrases that work this way, like “I should be so lucky!” (meaning “there’s no way I’m ever gonna be that lucky”) or “I should care!” (why should I care?). Even if “could care less” didn’t originate from a sarcastic intent, it matches up well enough with these other forms in the language to help give it staying power.
"Caring About Whether You Couldn’t Care Less": https://www.dictionary.com/e/could-care-less/
I particularly like this argument from this second link:
> The argument of logic falls apart when you consider the fact that both these phrases are idioms. In English, along with other languages, idioms aren’t required to follow logic, and to point out the lack of logic in one idiom and not all idioms is…illogical. Take the expression “head over heels,” which makes far less sense than “heels over head” when you think about the physics of a somersault. It turns out “heels over head” entered English around 1400, over 250 years before “head over heels,” however, the “logical” version of this idiom hasn’t been in popular usage since the late Victorian era.
In British English it means “disputable” while in American English it means “hypothetical”.
All of these have in common that they're more less the opposite of "something controversial or worth arguing about", which is the British English.
That is a meaning of "moot", but "hypothetical" is not. The word "another" was probably ill-advised there.
Similarly we use the word "oversee" for examining/observing... however "oversight" has taken on the role of an Auto-Antonym. We often use "oversight" and "lack of oversight" to mean the same thing, that something was missed due to carelessness... but we also use it to mean "supervision" that should prevent careless omissions from happening.
In Japanese 適当 is supposed to mean "appropriate, proper", but in practice it almost always means "unserious, sloppy, careless". Not sure how that came about.
Me: "I tried what you suggested and now everything's hunky-dory."
Them, 12 hours later: "Well if you're going to complain about my suggestion, I wish you'd have at least explained what was wrong with it.
On the misuse of the word "literally", I wholeheartedly agree with the following reader comment from an excellent EconTalk podcast, "John McWhorter on the Evolution of Language and Words on the Move":
This whole “literally” issue seems to have been mis-framed. The reason many of us object to the use of the word “literally” to mean “figuratively” isn’t that we can’t stand the thought of language evolving; it’s because there’s no replacement for it! I once had a friend say to me, “X is literally Y, and I mean ‘literally’ literally (not figuratively).”
- - -
I'm not all doing justice to the topic. But go check the transcript for "backshift", Mcwhorter gives more context. I'd strongly suggest to listen to it; it clicks much better, as we're talking about word accents.
* to table: postpone (US English) vs put forward for consideration (British English)
* to (take a) punt: give up (US) vs go ahead (British)
What could we call these... Alter-Anglo-Auto-Antonyms?
"Man, the law is so unfair to people who rent!"
"Do you mean unfair to the owner of the property or to the tenant who pays the rent?"
(It doesn't translate perfectly to English, but works in Spanish)
edit: wait, I see "lease" is in the list and it has exactly the same problem! Take that, English language! :D
So if you say "voy a alquilar esta casa" ("I'm going to rent this house") it's not clear whether you're the landlord or the tenant.
For example, consider "An original telling of the story" vs "The original telling of the story".
Original means the origin/birth in both examples, the difference lies not in the meaning of original but in the word it affects (The telling, or the story itself)
P.S. I also like to use the word insufferable, picked it up from Pride and Prejudice, unfortunately doesn’t get the usage it deserves nowadays.
P.P.S Not many people use P.S. in their emails/posts either, would be a good habit to bring back.
(Sorry if I'm being insufferable :-)
Some years ago, while skimming The DFW Reader (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21423291-the-david-foste...), I saw the fact he included the exclusivity of who to humans on his list of good practices for students in the class he taught.
I think the takeaway here is that compiler errors could use more specificity and grammar checks too...
Now I'm cool!
1. To go away
2. To keep in place
The taboo thing could therefore be seen as very good and important (for gods) or as very bad, improper, or dangerous (for people, outside of the appropriate religious context). I think that many cultures have had a similar dual connotation in words related to sacred things, even if they don't have exactly the same cultural rules.
It's interesting to look at the meanings of Latin "sacer" (the origin of our word "sacred") as an analogy:
It also means "partially". "It was quite nice", etc.
I think this comes from people using the phrase "It was quite good" in cases when they weren't hugely impressed.
These are far from hard & fast rules though. In spoken situations the intended meaning is generally obvious from tone, in written text it can be quite ambiguous.
There is at least one use where the word means both at once: when it is used on its own: Person one: "The man is an utter 'king imbecile", Person two: "Quite" or P1: "WOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!!!!!!", P2: "Quite". Here it means "I agree (on a binary yes/no level) but I wouldn't put it that strongly". Similar to how "indeed" is often used.
:trollface: it's definitely used both ways, but always clear from context I would say.
Others I would remove:
"quantum": It really means something more like "discrete", and discrete values might be small or large depending on one's perspective.
"splice": I find no support for the second definition.
Still, many of these are very nice.
Not contradictory because hardness and toughness are 2 distinct (though correlated) properties. Tempering  is basically a process that trades some hardness (i.e. soften) for a lot of toughness (i.e. strengthen).
•very good, excellent; "cool".
•of poor quality; "bad".
Theres credit in the sense of receiving money, and money in the sense of money going out.
This probably makes more sense to people who have learnt double entry book keeping where credit and debits are reversed compared to popular usage.
For example, nonplussed originally means to be surprised. But a layman would think that to be 'plussed' must be to be surprised and nonplussed must be the opposite of that. Is this how auto-antonyms come to be?
A lot of the others are present vs. past tense. After you put something where you want it, you want it to stay put.
Eg: I find your suggestion risible/reasonable.
And the inclusion of literally made me smile
- important enough to merit study
- trivial enough to be dismissed
I love how that sentence yields 4 possible meanings.
When I hear it I still hear as it was used: we (was it the UN? US? I can no longer remember) sanction your restricting trade with this other country. Which on TV was abbreviated/blurred and thus within only a couple of years the standalone term had acquired the new meaning!
So at least to me your sentence seems clear: I don't feel like the meaning has changed quite as much as you do. But since you interpret it that way: perhaps I am wrong!
It's a shame the google ngram tool only consults text. TV is a rich source of neologisms.
They do quote (the wonderful) Molly Ivins, who passed away in 2007.
> 1769 F. Brooke *Hist. Emily Montague* IV. ccxvii. 83 "He is a fortunate man to be introduced to such a party of fine women at his arrival; it is literally to feed among the lilies."
> 1801 *Spirit of Farmers' Museum* 262 "He is, literally, made up of marechal powder, cravat, and bootees."
> 1825 J. Denniston *Legends Galloway* 99 "Lady Kirkclaugh, who, literally worn to a shadow, died of a broken heart."
> 1863 F. A. Kemble *Jrnl. Resid. Georgian Plantation* 105 "For the last four years..I literally coined money."
> 1876 ‘M. Twain’ *Adventures Tom Sawyer* ii. 20 "And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth."
Its meaning in those is closer to "pretty much", "as good as", or "almost like". It's more of a metaphorical intensifier, but there's clearly a metaphor being implied.
They look the same to me.
I think the correct understanding is as hyperbolic use of the regular sense of literally.
If I say, "I walked miles around the store looking for you" or "I waited for you for days", we don't say "sometimes miles means hundreds of feet and sometimes days means a few minutes". We say people sometimes exaggerate.
In the same way, "Tom was rolling in wealth [so much so that it's almost as if he were literally rolling in wealth, but of course that interpretation is silly and I'm using hyperbole to exaggerate how rolling-in-wealth Tom was]".
As you say, you can engage in hyperbole without marking it.
If I say "I figuratively am going to kill him", you're highlighting the figurativeness of the act. You're stressing that you're not actually going to kill him. The meaning of the sentence is "I'm going to kill him... but not really".
If I say "I'm going to kill him" or "I'm literally going to kill him", which mean basically the same thing, it's still implied to be metaphor. But what's being stressed here is the closeness to the metaphor becoming actually literal. The meaning of the sentence is "I'm SO angry with him that I'm ALMOST at the point of killing him".
It's subtle, but there's definitely a distinction. "Figuratively" is a dehyperbolization (it's not really gonna happen), "literally" is a hyperbolization (it is hyperbolically really close to happening).
"Literally" is being used for hyperbole. It makes the sentence more intense.
The word "figuratively" is not used for hyperbole. It's not a synonym. The sentence being figurative does not matter.
That's not a definition of "figuratively".
Think about which way you want the language to be, and then use your vote.
You may not like my swapping the definitions of those words, but that is language how literally works. Therefore, according to your logic, it is valid.
The 'well constructed writing' portion was not specified. What was specified is that someone will make fun of anyone for the colloquial use case.
When someone says "I was so cross I literally exploded!" they are not explicitly pointing out that they didn't really explode, they're just using the word for some kind of emphasis.
A better, similar example could be "I was so ashamed I literally imploded". In this case "literally" is just emphasizing a figurative implosion.
I think "emphasis" is really what this alternate usage is.
I had a weird experience when I rented the tux for my wedding. The tux came with a colored handkerchief that was meant to be tucked into the pocket of the coat in a decorative way; and the guy showing me how to do it kept using "literally": "Literally take the handercheif, and literally fold it over so, and literally put it in the pocket so."
I was a bit bemused, but I didn't say anything, because he was literally taking the handkerchief, folding it over, and so on. But it seemed a bit strange to use it that way; I would certainly never have interpreted him as saying to metaphorically fold the handkerchief, so why emphasize "literally"?
I posted the experience to FB, and someone pointed out that he was simply using the word "literally" for emphasis: in this case, emphasizing how simple the steps were.
When people say things like "My head literally exploded", they're doing the same thing: simply using it as an intensifier.
The insistence that simple emphasis is a valid use for "literally" -- and quoting M-W or the OED to support your case -- is just as prescriptive the insistence that it doesn't.
Language is socially constructed by the people using it; we all "vote" by using it, and by policing its use.
So let me ask you this: Do you want "literally" to be a meaningless emphasis word (and thus lose its ability to specify "this actually happened")? Or do you want "literally" to mean "I am not speaking figuratively, this thing actually happened"?
If you want the former, then I disagree with you, but sure, go ahead and use your "vote" to police people objecting to "literally" meaning "figuratively". But if you want the latter, then join me in insisting that it means "this actually happened".
And another one, for 'gwd downthread: https://xkcd.com/1108/.
Biweekly and bimonthly can mean the same thing because of the prefix bi-, which here can mean “occurring every two” or “occurring twice in.”
Semiweekly suffers from the same logical discrepancy, but unlike biweekly the convention is well established (though you hardly ever hear the term in the US. In fact before this thread I wouldn't have known which it meant. (other than definitely being the opposite of biweekly... so...))
In the UK and other English speaking areas (Australia and New Zealand to name two) bi-weekely always means twice a week, following the same pattern as biannually and other examples. We use fortnightly to mean every two weeks, but the word fortnight is not commonly used in the US.
Bimonthly is also ambiguous unfortunately. Again in the UK it would be taken as meaning twice per month (almost, but not quite, the same as fortnightly) but some others use it to mean every two months.
Biannually seems to be consistently used and understood to mean twice per year, with biennial meaning every two years though that isn't a commonly used word in my experience (people tend to just say "every two years").