I remember reading, as a kid, a children’s storybook called ‘Amelia Bedelia’, in which Amelia got a job as a housekeeper without having any knowledge of how to keep house. It was memorable because of the humour involved in her being told to dust the living room, but having no idea how. She proceeded to cover every surface in the living room with the dusting powder she found in the bathroom. Obviously, the result was the exact opposite of what her employer had intended.
I still remember the experience of understanding for the first time that there are words that have opposite or contradictory meanings despite being exactly the same words. What a revelation! Words had just become automatically more interesting and exciting.
Dust is one of a small and interesting collection of words called contronyms.
A contronym is more than just a…
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