Janus words: Two-faced creatures


The god Janus

A recent Merriam-Webster blog sheds light on one of the many ironies of the English language. The phenomenon of Janus words.

According to Wikipedia, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He has two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace.

A Janus word is one that is its own opposite. Here a few some are also mentioned t in the Merriam-Webster blog.

To move swiftly (The tall sprinter moves fast.)
Stuck in a firm or fixed manner (The bird struggled and was held fast in the net.)

To read carefully (The hiring manager carefully perused all the applications for the job.)
To skim over (Jesse quickly perused the small crowd, looking for the girl in a neon pink hat.)

Watchful and responsible care (The new manager was given oversight of a large project.)
An error of omission (The problem was a simple oversight of two numbers)

To attach something (The cashier grabbed her stapler and clipped the coupon to the receipt.)
To cut off something (My sister still clips her coupons from the newspaper.)

To split (A giant blow from the ax cleaved the block of wood into a million pieces.)
To adhere to (Jesse cleaved to her son as he died from his wounds.)

Vicious, evil (The wicked witch poisoned all the creatures in the forest.)
Extremely good (The group put on a wicked concert this weekend, it got rave reviews!)

Unfavorable (Jesse is depressed about his bad grades.)
Really super-nice (The models wore some bad-ass outfits at the show; they sold out in no time.)

See more on Janus words here.

For help in putting your best words forward, whether it’s a report, a thesis, a novel, or any other written project, visit Donna Marks or e-mail dmariemarks@gmail.com.


About The dutty is "the ground," the foundation, the earth--just like words are part of the foundation on which I build my life.

Reason for being: To tell stories and help writers and others with a message to put their best word forward.
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