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A.Word.A.Daywith Anu Garg
In French, the word hôte can mean either host or guest. That may sound like a recipe for confusion, but context is everything. If you are checking into a Paris hotel and the contract they ask you to sign says that hôte is responsible for all charges, you can be confident that they mean the guest.
French is not the only language with these contranyms. Words with contradictory meanings exist in most languages. The English equivalent of the above word, host, once had two contradictory senses as well; the "guest" meaning died out over time. But don't despair, we have many more. This week we'll look at five contranyms.
1. To discharge or release.
2. To conceal; to keep secret.
For 1: Back-formation from secretion, from Latin secernere (to separate), from se- (apart) + cernere (to sift). Earliest documented use: 1707.
For 2: Alteration of obsolete verb secret, from Latin secernere (to separate), from se- apart + cernere (to sift). Earliest documented use: 1741.
"Snails and slugs move along on a body part called a foot. This foot constantly secretes mucus that allows them to slowly glide along."
Laurie Garretson; Snail Bait; Victoria Advocate (Texas); May 17, 2012.
"The bag has a communications device secreted in the lining."
Will Pavia; Open Chanel to Moscow; The Times (London, UK); May 22, 2012.
Explore "secrete" in the Visual Thesaurus.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:What really flatters a man is that you think him worth flattering. -George Bernard Shaw, writer, Nobel laureate (1856-1950)
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