Monday, January 24, 2005

On vs. Off

English is weird. Even the word "weird" is weird, as it violates the "i" before "e" except after "c" rule.

In the previous post, I wrote "On to Japan". I thought about this and realized that I should have written "Off to Japan", and started wondering why either one is appropriate to some degree. We say "on to Japan" when we mean we are continuing our travels "onward". And we say "off to Japan" when we are talking about leaving the current location as in "I am off (from here) to Japan. They are very nuanced differences, but they use exact opposite words to denote these differences - on vs. off.


orion said...

i've been kind of obsessed lately with 'autoantonyms':
words which mean both "blah" and the opposite of "blah".

here's some of my faves -

shaft is the only non-verb one i know of.

apparently the spanish for "finish" is one as well.
(finish in english is, but it's sort of slant, imho)

Darius said...

There is a list of those somewhere. I've forgotten them except for this one: Something can "Burn up" and "Burn down" at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Try inflammable and flammable. They both mean the same thing!

orion said...


actually i'm after a different category of words than Burn Up/Burn Down or [in]flammable.

those are word pairs which seem like they Should mean opposite things but which in fact mean the same thing,

while an autoantonym is a single word which by itself means two opposite things. for examples the guys above.