This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Word To Use Today: sanction.

Sanction is contranym: that is, a word which means both itself and its own opposite. 

Contranyms are, of course, very confusing for everyone.

Does sanction mean to give permission for something to happen...

...or, as when you're imposing sanctions, to do your best to stop it happening?

Good grief, it's no wonder the countries of the world are always squabbling. Even if they manage to work out what everyone means by the word sanction, then ten to one they'll get in a mess deciding whether to table a motion in the sanction's support; because in some parts of the world tabling a motion means putting it forward for a vote, and in others it means not putting it forward for a vote. So that's another contranym.

Perhaps diplomats should restrict themselves to offering each other biscuits, smiling, and showing each other pictures of their grandchildren.

I think it might save the world a lot of trouble.

Word To Use Today But Only Accompanied By A Smile And The Offer Of A Biscuit: sanction. This word looks as if it's something to do with the Latin word sanctus, which means holy, but it isn't: it comes from the Latin word sancīre, which means to decree.

By the way, a sanction mark is to be found on French furniture of the 1800s which has met the standards of the Parisian guild of ebonists. Ebonists make furniture in ebony:

File:Kamagong (Ironwood) Chair.jpg

like this.

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