When I was told that “squarely defeated” and “roundly defeated” essentially mean the same thing, I began to ponder about some more curious English words or phrases.
- Peruse – It means to read thoroughly and attentively. However, it can also mean to skim. “Scan” also has contradictory definitions similar to “peruse”.
- Clip – To attach; to cut off.
- Flammable and Inflammable – Some people assume that they are opposite in meaning because of “in” like action/inaction and tangible/intangible. However, that’s not the case. Inflammable comes from the Latin verb inflammare, the root word flammare means “to catch fire” and combined with the Latin prefix in which means “to cause to”.
- Oversight – It may mean watchful and responsible care or an omission or error due to carelessness. This may explain why many oversight committees are prone to oversight.
- Fat chance and Small chance – Both have somewhat similar definitions though fat chance is normally used for pointing out sarcastically (or perhaps, cynically) that there is almost no chance.
- Priceless – When something is said to be priceless, it means that thing is too precious that its price cannot be determined. Unlike useless and valueless, the meaning of priceless doesn’t become the opposite of “price”.
- I couldn’t care less and I could care less – Both have the same connotation but technically, “I couldn’t care less” is the correct expression. However, more and more people are now using “I could care less”.
- Moot – This may either mean subject to debate or having little or no practical relevance.
- Fix – Here’s a little wordplay that I came up with. You can fix a car to win a race and you can “fix” a horse to lose a race.
- Apparent – Not certain or clear; obvious