Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Say What?

I used to be fascinated by antagonyms because I thought they were extremely rare. An antagonym, in case you're wondering, is a word with 2 meanings which are the opposite of each other.

(An example is "cleave" which can mean "stick to" or it can mean "split apart". And in in case you were not wondering what an antagonym is then you either lack a sense of curiosity or you should be teaching post-graduate classes on the English language.)

I have now found that antagonyms are remarkably commonplace in the corporate world. I collected several in the course of a single seven-hour meeting on Monday.

"I may be wrong, but..."
While this seems to be a humble admission by the speaker that he is not omniscient, what it really means is this: "You would like to think that I am wrong. But I'm right. I am more right than you will ever be. I am more right than you ever dreamed of being. In fact I am so very right that I make Mussolini look like Marx. You on the other hand, are wrong. Live with it. Or not. I don't care, because you're wrong and you don't matter."

"I'm not saying this is wrong but..."
"... that is only because I have chosen to magnanimously care about your feelings for the next seven seconds. And then, after this decent pause, I will proceed to tell you in excruciating detail that you are more wrong than Britney Spears covering a Joan Jett song. The extent of your wrongness is an embarassment to you, your colleagues, your nation, and the entire ecosystem in which you occupy an insignificant yet excessive space."

"I don't know how I feel about that".
"I know exactly how I feel like that. I feel a nauseating mixture of contempt, impatience, profound dissatisfaction, and acid reflux. And by the way, you're an idiot".

"Thanks for your help."
"No thanks to your help."

"Have a good day."

Antagonym's are lovely, but like a spicy meal they are full of sensory stimulation and are best followed by the soothing dessert of a tortured metaphor. Luckily for me, my marathon meeting on Monday ended with an all-time classic. And I quote...

"I'm really happy that we got on the train that got us here, because now we know where our bus is going."