OUR MERCILESS LANGUAGE
Do you know what the word SANCTION means?
It’s a rare Janus word that means both one thing and its opposite, or antonym. A sanction is the endorsement or approval of a course of action — I sanction this plan — and also (usually plural) coercive measures designed to oppose a course of action: The UN imposed sanctions on Iraq. Common examples of words with diametrically opposed meanings are cleave —to separate forcefully, and to adhere or cling to—and oversight —supervision, the act of watching over, and failure to notice, the act of overlooking.
And we wonder why people have such a hard time with the English language.
At the dawn of civilization those crazy vocabularians (not a real word, I know) got together and said: “We don’t have enough words”
“Hmm… that’s a… what’s the word for it… um… PROBLEM. Write that down. Just utter a few syllables and we’ll add the definitions later.”
“Oh, I know! Let’s also put a few words in there that have definitions that are the exact opposite of each other!”
“Yes! We so intellibrilliant! Ooo… write that down too.”