FW: Same sound, opposite meaning

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri May 10 16:18:51 UTC 2002

At 11:34 AM -0400 5/10/02, Mark A Mandel wrote:
>Here's another contronym/enantionym: arguably.
>         Arguably, Sukovich has been called Newhon's greatest
>         storyteller.
>Does this mean that the writer is supporting or opposing the
A more standard occurrence in my experience would have been

"Sukovich is arguably Newhon's greatest storyteller."

and I've usually seen this used to convey support for the proposition
(albeit qualified support), the sense being 'It can be (plausibly)
argued that...'

On the other hand, _arguable_, the presumed source for the adverb is
generally used in the opposite direction.  "That proposition is
arguable" = 'not as clearly true as X seems to think'.  Or maybe not
(always).  I avoid using "arguable" myself, but I do use "arguably"
in the supporting-argument sense above.

Aside to Steve Kl:  should we have a panelists' usage query and
eventually a usage note on this for AHD5?  AHD4 simply gives
"arguably" as the adverb for "arguable", but I'm convinced that for
many language-wielders the former has wended its own (more positive)
way from the latter.


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