Everyday Words with Double Meanings

There are so many words in the English language that we misleadingly call ‘big’; consequently, us speakers tend to use the same, repetitive words in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, because most of us could not care less about spending hours studying vocabulary, we do not seem to notice the hidden meanings of these ordinary words. Who would have thought that ‘waffle’ and ‘compass’ are verbs?

Waffle: Traditionally, waffle, the noun, refers to a delicious dough doused in syrup and usually eaten for breakfast. But what if I told you it was possible to waffleAs a verb, waffle means to either intentionally avoid a question or it can be used to describe the inability to make a decision.
Tattoo: It is pretty commonplace to say “I’m going to get a tattoo.” And while we may be talking about the ink design applied to skin, tattoo may also be used to describe a musical rhythm or beat.
Gnome: Who does not love this classic garden-dwelling mythical creature? Used in a different context, a gnome is not something concrete: a gnome can also be a short saying or maxim!
Compass: A compass is a navigational tool used for locating North by use of magnetism, but that is only the case if it is a noun. If you engage in the act of compassing, per contra, you are 1) trying to understand 2) conspiring 3) circumambulating or 4) trying to achieve something
Conceit: Although it is conceited of me to show off my knowledge of secret word meanings, I should at least mention that a conceit may also be an idea or artistic expression in writing.
Wont: I may be cheating with this one, as it is more of a homophone, but it can be misleading if it is not a contraction. It is my wont, or habit, then, to enlighten you about the dangers of words. Speaking of dangers, wont is also a triple threat: it can be used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective, each of which refers to the forming of or act of a habit.
Pedestrian: When I say pedestrian pedestrians, it almost seems like antanaclasis (repetition of a double meaning, e.g. Buffalo buffalo etc.). Pedestrians are people whose desired method of traveling is by foot. On the other hand, the adjective pedestrian means boring and mundane.
Apple: This one is more obscure, but thanks to Paul Anthony Jones, we know that the act of “appling,” in its oldest sense, referred to the collecting of pinecones.
Pine: Pine trees are unable to pine. Because the noun pine denotes a coniferous tree that bears an organ known as the “pine cone,” it is impossible for it to experience pining, which is suffering caused by longing, i.e. wistfulness.

 

For further reading: Smart Words by Mim Harrison (2008)
Word Drops by Paul Anthony Jones (2016)

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