antagonistic

A word that might be made of barbed wire. It snags your tag, nags and sticks you. Is it agony or just agon? Don’t egg it on. It’s negative from the get-go, with the ant that is ever against – a little insect in the black ink of text, carrying much more than its weight in animus. When you see that, you might well say “Ag, what’s to do?” Best be gone? But the c at the end might catch you – if you haven’t been tarred by the nasty double [æ], pushed back by the insistent [I]s, and poked by the twin tapping [t]s, even while cushioned by the pads of the [n]s. Yes, this word is one of duals – and duels. Front and back are two syllables each, and each is all in the front until it ends with a kick in the back; in the middle is the moat of that perpetual neutral schwa sound represented here by the emptiest character. Two sides, differing in little more than vowel height and the voicing of one stop, glaring at each other across the slightest of gaps. And of course neither will prevail, as both are needed. Why? It’s all Greek to me… of course, from roots meaning “against” and “struggle.” We’ve had it in English since the 17th century – the word, that is; the idea’s timeless.

One response to “antagonistic

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