“Ball & Chain” vs. Source of Stability/Emotional Support

A “contronym” is word that is its own antonym.

Examples include the word “left” (“the gentlemen have left and the ladies are left”); and “off” (“to turn off,” but also “activate,” as in “the alarm went off”).

So, what do you call a symbol — like an anchor — that can mean two, opposite things?

Meaning #1:  someone’s rock or foundation; main source of emotional support.

Meaning #2:  “ball & chain.”

I don’t know that there’s officially a term for that.


P.S.:  As best I can tell, the distinction between the two types of anchors comes down to the context, and specifically, whether the speaker values freedom (to do something), or emotional support.

See also, “Canadian Quirks: What’s the Opposite of “Tabling” Something? “Tabling Something”; “Why is Calling Someone a “Piece of Work” an Insult?”; “If “Colloboration” is Good, Why Are “Colloborators” Bad?“; “Which “Done” Did They Mean?“; “The Many Guises of “Hot Dog’“; “Synchronate, “Take 2”; and “NY Times Gaffe: “Energize” and its Phantonyms.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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