Tuesday, August 6

Janus Words





Have you ever heard the name “Janus” ?



It is the name of a god in Roman myth*.


*myth = a very old story



Janus is the god of beginning, ending, change, and time. He has two faces because he looks at both the future and the past at the same time.



In fact, the name of the month “January” came from “Janus.”


This photo by Loudon dodd is available at <a ref="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Janus1.JPG">under a <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ph/"> Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0



In the English language we also have “Janus Words.” The reason is that these words have 2 different meanings.



Think about the very common word “fast.” This word, as most learners know, means moving quickly.


Ex.

He works fast. = Ok



But “fast” has another meaning which is opposite. “Fast” also means not moving or can’t move.


Ex.

The chair was stuck fast to the floor. = Ok



This means that the chair's position is fixed and firm.



Surprising, right? One word sometimes has 2 meanings that are directly opposite. Of course this can be a great source of confusion for learners.



How did this happen?




Semantic Change



During its history, a word may have changed meaning. The technical term “semantic” is about the meaning of words.



Sometimes, a word splits and gains a new meaning similar to its original one. But sometimes it gains a new meaning that’s absolutely different.    



This is why we have Janus Words.



Below are 10 other examples of these words:



1. Bolt
6. Left

2. Clip
7. Sanction

3.Dress
8. Screen

4. Dust
9. Seed

5. Fix
10. Strike



1. Bolt



Have you watched the Disney movie “Bolt” ?


Copyright Walt Disney Pictures


It’s the story of a small white dog named “Bolt.” His name comes from one meaning of the word which is to run suddenly.


Ex.


The deer bolted when it saw the hunter. = Ok



But this isn’t the only meaning of the word “bolt.” Another meaning is to stop something from moving.


Ex.

He bolted the chair to the floor. = Ok



This second sentence has a similar meaning to attach. 



So,



Word
Meanings
Examples


Bolt
(Verb)
move suddenly
The deer bolted.

lock
He bolted the door.




2. Clip



Word
Meanings
Examples


Clip
(Verb)
remove by cutting
He clipped the photo from the newspaper.

put together
He clipped the photo to the document.





3. Dress



Word
Meanings
Examples



Dress
(Verb)
put clothes on someone
Go and dress your baby brother.

prepare something such as chicken by removing the parts that you can’t eat

 Go and dress the chicken.





4. Dust



Word
Meanings
Examples


Dust
(Verb)
to clean the dust off by wiping
I’ll dust the table.

put powder on something
I’ll dust the biscuits with icing sugar.





5. Fix



Word
Meanings
Examples


Fix
(Noun)
solution
We need a quick fix.

problem; difficult situation
We are in a fix.





6. Left



Word
Meanings
Examples


Left
(P.P.)
has gone
He has just left.

remaining
There is one box left.





7. Sanction



Word
Meanings
Examples


Sanction
(Noun)

permission
They acted without government sanction.

prohibition
The US imposed trade sanctions on North Korea.





8. Screen



Word
Meanings
Examples


Screen
(Verb)
hide
Trees screened the house.

show a film or TV program
The film will be screened tomorrow.




9. Seed



Word
Meanings
Examples



Seed
(Verb)
remove seeds from fruit or vegetables

Add 1 lime, seeded.

plant seeds in the ground
Their lawn is newly-seeded.



*Note: With our meanings above, the word “seed” is often used in Passive Voice.




10. Strike



Word
Meanings
Examples


Strike
(Verb)
hit
The stone hit his head.

miss the ball three times
He struck out twice at bat.





In Summary



Strange as it may seem, it’s possible for one word to have 2 opposite meanings. But it’s not as confusing as you think it is. The important thing is to focus on the context (situation) so you will know which meaning is being used.






Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !










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