Tuesday, April 7, 2009

We need a new word.

So I'm reading a blog post that Humphrey "resigned" (I won't say which blog), and I immediately think: wait he resigned so soon after signing a new contract?

I'm not a complete dolt so I soon realized that the blogger meant "resign" as in "sign again" as opposed to "resign" as in "to quit." Nevertheless this word when used to mean "sign again" always throws me for a momentary loop.

There is a name for words like "resign." They are apparently called "autoantonyms" or "contronyms." (Eugene Volokh had a similar post about the use of the word "sanction" as a verb.)

These words are problematic because even though a reader can usually figure out the intended meaing from context, sometimes that is not the case. In any event, these words can be (if only momentarily) confusing, especially when one definition predominates, as I believe "to quit or step down" generally does with "resign."

I think avoidance is the best policy.

There is a really simple solutution here. When meaning "sign again" add a hyphen: re-sign.

Now, all I have to do is get everyone else on board . . . .

ADDENDUM: I just noticed that Silverstein does use the word "re-sign."

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