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Polymorphism

linguistic tripwires

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linguistic tripwires

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I do not like what has happened to the word "drama." I went looking for a term for the phenomenon... and found one:

An auto-antonym (sometimes spelled autantonym), or contranym (originally spelled contronym), is a word with a homograph that is also an antonym. Variant names include antagonym, Janus word, enatiodrome, and self-antonym. It is a word with multiple meanings, one of which is defined as the reverse of one of its other meanings.

So, I have a new word, that makes me happy - and the variants of the word? Delicious! I will be coopting "antagonym," and "Janus word" is just such a vibrant phrase, I have to love it. What does NOT make me happy is how I can accidentally call in an air strike on a conversation when I meant to lend support. English is already a battlefield, we don't actually need to add minefields. I sanction sanctions, damn it.

When I think the word "drama," my head does not default to the BS baby-mama flavor... and that's a problem for me, because some other people's heads do, and it impedes communication. This is a potential issue with ANY antagonym, but "drama" is particularly problematic, because regardless of which definition you're using, there will be high emotional content, and that is seldom an aid to clarity - and the newer meaning is insulting, to boot.

I find the prevalence of the newer meaning baffling, in a way - to my mind, the original former, longstanding meaning should be the default; I'm probably in the minority on that, but WHY? The original former, longstanding meaning is still very visible, and to my dictionary-bound brain that should equate to dominance. Go to your video store (or the online equivalent) and note how few of the movies in the Drama section are about people flouncing out of internet communities. Better yet, consider the 2000+ years of world theatrical history. Is that really outweighed by the influence of the Jerry Springer set?

Well, maybe it is. Hairpulling probably trumps Shakespeare (put some hairpulling into Shakespeare, though, and Jerry's going DOWN, bitch*). It's not like I don't use the neologistic definition myself. We DO need a word for calling shenanigans on people and their crap; I just think it's counterproductive that it's the same one that refers to the real difficulties of life and fiction about same.

In summary: antagonyms - I disapprove, but I love the label. Also, impetus for uploading a new icon, yay.


* Well, ok, stripping away the dignity that a patina of 400+ years of antiquity lends, realism suggests that if Shakespeare and Jerry Springer were contemporaries they'd probably collaborate on a reality show, and it would make more money than any show ever before or since.

(writing time: 1 hour, 14 minutes)
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