Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Ambiguity of "Sanction"

I like the word "sanction," and I find that I often want to use it on this blog. The problem is I like it in the positive sense, but that sense of the word is not often used.

"Sanction" means:

Authoritative permission or approval that makes a course of action valid.


"Permission" and perhaps, "approval," are good synonyms.

But then there's also this meaning:

A penalty, specified or in the form of moral pressure, that acts to ensure compliance or conformity.


So, on the one hand, "sanction" is to "approve," on the other hand, it is to "penalize," or "dissapprove."

"We need the Bishops to sanction such actions." Which sense am I using here? . . . wrong!

"The committee sanctioned the idea." Which sense? . . . wrong again! Put yourself out of your pathetic misery, will ya?

Okay, try this.

"This doctrine calls for nothing short of divine sanction." Which sense? . . .

Okay, here's a gimme:

"The administration's sanction for sanctions is an incoherent policy." What sense? What if I said "of" instead of "for"?

1 Comments:

Blogger Ambrose said...

Sanction is almost as cool a word as cleave....

1:04 AM  

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