Date: Sat, 8 Oct 1994 12:40:31 RSA


Subject: Re: Name that syntagm

I've been looking for some time for a suitable name for words (or

expressions) that mean both themselves and their opposites (literally,

ravel, let, oversight -- see "A Literal Paradox" in _Declining Grammar_

[Urbana: NCTE 1989], pp.. 73-80). I've never encountered positive "I don't

care to" until this discussion, but now I'm sure I'll notice it a lot (I

still remember hearing my first might could about a week after I learned

about double modals years ago). Anyway, if you can name that syntagm, maybe

ADS will give you a prize at the annual new words meeting (are you

listening, Alan?).



Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

i don't think this is what you're looking for, dennis, but there is the

term "Janus word" for a single term that expresses opposite concepts.

e.g., "temper" can mean 'to harden' or 'to soften'.

however, i don't think the overuse of 'literally' qualifies it for this


lynne murphy

university of the witwatersrand