Two two-faced words
I was thinking today, for no particular reason, about two words, each of which has two meanings which are opposite to each other.
The first of these words is cleave. Its most common meaning is to split (something) in two. That, of course, is where we get the noun cleaver from. The verb has an unusual past tense – cleft – and past participle – cloven; neither of which is much heard now except in fossilised expressions like cleft stick and cloven hoof.
The weird thing is that cleave also has the opposite meaning; used with to it means to stick closely to something: They cleave to the old ways.
The other word I was thinking of is sanction. This can mean to permit or approve: I could not sanction such a course of action. But when used as a noun it means a penalty or punishment: if you get your benefits sanctioned it means the right to receive them is withdrawn.
So it’s as if each word has two faces, looking in opposite directions. Strange.
P.S. May I bring to your attention my comic fantasy YA novel The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers – here is the link: https://unbound.com/books/adam-gowers . Go there and you will see a neat little 2-minute video of me explaining why the time for this novel has come! And if you support it you will get your name in the back and an invitation to the launch party.