Monday, October 16, 2006
Should we sanction this?
"Sanction" is an odd word. As a verb, it means to approve, permit or authorize. As a noun (usually as a plural), it means measures used to punish a country, a university's athletic program or an organization.

This headline from the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., and another in the sports section of The News & Observer ("NCAA sanctions Kansas") blur this distinction. Yes, some dictionaries allow "sanction" to be used as a verb to mean "to impose sanctions," but the word loses its other definition if we allow that.

Or is this a losing battle?
posted by Andy Bechtel at 4:04 PM | Permalink |


  • At 3:53 PM, Blogger The Ridger, FCD

    Does it really lose the other meaning? I think context would allow both to coexist, as both meanings do for "cleave", or any of the dozens of other auto-antonyms English has. One would sanction a country or government in the "impose sanctions on" meaning, but an action in the "allow" meaning. I don't think there would be many cases where true confusion would occur.