Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Offer This Post for Your Perusal

Well, our week with the kiddies is done, and so I begin to return to the blogosphere.

Actually, I didn't leave — not entirely anyway — for I did peruse many posts (mostly from Feedly) although I did not stop to comment on any but a scare few.

Or did I really 'peruse'?

It depends on what you mean by the word.

What I have always understood peruse to mean and what I have always meant in my use of it is something like: scanning something in a rather loose way to get the general sense of a document — a light overview as it were.

I honestly never knew that an opposite meaning existed until stumbling upon a podcast, A Way With Words, last week. I discovered that peruse may also mean: to examine or consider with attention and in detail.

Did you catch that?

Peruse can be an antonym of itself. In other words, it's an auto-antonym or a Janus word. I prefer the second appellation because I am too dumb to remember the former.

Up until now, the only Janus word I could remember has been, the verb, cleave: "to join" (as in "cleave unto") and "to separate or divide." I only remember this particular Janus word because I am male and well ... um ... blush.

Anyway, back to peruse: the hosts of the podcast did say that at some point, one of the two definitions will probably become dominant, but they couldn't say which one. In fact, the hosts seemed to be more familiar with the "examine intensely" definition.

Here are a few others, and you can easily find more if this interests you. I am not necessarily familiar with both definitions in the following list, but you may be.
sanction means "to allow" and "to prohibit (or punish)"
inoculate means "to protect against" and "to infect with"
cull means "to select" and "to reject"fix means "a solution" and "a problem" (also fixed)
cool means "supportive of" and "opposed to" (he was "cool with" the idea; he was "cool to" the idea); sort of a slang usage
public means both "public (free)" (in American English) and "private (fee-based)" (in British English)
screen means "to display" (~ a movie) and "to hide" (~ his view)
trim means "to remove from" (~ the tree) and "to add to" (~ the Christmas tree)
enjoin means "to direct" and "to forbid"
dust means "to remove from" (~ the table) and "to add to" (~ the cake)


Dale said...

Interesting, John. I always enjoy this sort of thing and fancy myself a "words guy." I shall peruse the internet for more. LOL!

TexWisGirl said...

those are pretty cool. :)

Jimmie Earl said...

Neat post. Neat meaning "cool" whereas neat also means clean, well spaced etc. LOL! Anyway, I enjoyed it.
We had a lesson recently about words spelled the same, pronounced differently, and had entirely different meanings. I will soon post the list in my blog for your "perusal!"

Hilary said...

I love language!

Tabor said...

It is no wonder that English is such a difficult language to learn, full of contradictions and ever changing new words. I must admit I am so ignorant and did not know that these were called Janus words!!

Donna said...

Yes, believe it or not, I knew all of these...I loved English in high school but you'd never know it now....Hahaa

Lorna said...


troutbirder said...

Well very good. Some of these words always made me feel stupid. As in I didn't understand their application. But then I was to lazy to pursue a clarification. Thanks AC for the upgrade...:)

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Now I know that it's time to listen to podcats cause there is much tomlearn...or I could have you listen and then relate as in tell us about language use.
Thanks, John

Mara said...

This is waaay too difficult for a Monday morning. I will have to come back to it later in the week.

Regenia said...

I really enjoyed this post!

Mary Gilmour said...

Fun with language. Nice.
I use 'peruse' to mean examine carefully, and I suspect that definition will win out.