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Trivia Teaser

Which brand of whisky is manufactured in Lynchburg, Tennessee?

Jim Beam
Rebel Yell
Wild Turkey
Jack Daniel's

Players Lounge

Quite Unqualified

Completely unqualified? Slightly unqualified? Or even absolutely flawless?
The ambiguity in this pair of words arises from their both being words to which the description 'Janus word' may be applied.
So, why Janus? Janus was the Roman god of gates and doorways, or, more broadly, beginning, ends, and transitions. Hence Janus was also associated with the beginnings and ends of war. Interestingly, Janus had no equivalent in the Ancient Greek pantheon.
Janus was usually depicted with two faces, one facing forward and one facing back, or one looking to the future and one looking to the past.
And the Janus words (also called auto-antonyms or contronyms)? Well, the label derives from Janus having two viewpoints. What it means is that the word has two opposite meanings. These opposite meanings can result from two words now having the same spelling but each having arisen from different root words. Or they can arise from the usage of a word changing over time, or usage differing in different regions in which a language is used.
I was aware that 'let' once meant 'prevent' or 'hinder'. Now this meaning remains in the legal 'without let or hindrance' and a 'let ball' in tennis that has been prevented or hindered by hitting the top of the net. But, of course, 'let' now generally means being allowed or permitted.
For 'quite', one could be 'quite happy', meaning slightly so, or one could be 'quite ecstatic', meaning completely so. And 'unqualified' can be 'lacking the required qualifications', or it can mean the 'absolute' of 'an unqualified success'.
Such words are a delight to the compiler of cryptic crosswords, but can be more challenging in day-to-day use. I didn't know that 'table', in the sense of 'tabling a document', can only mean 'presenting the document for discussion' in British English, though, in American English, 'tabling' can also mean shelving its discussion.
So, peruse this. No, wait. 'Peruse' is also a two-faced object. It can mean to read or examine with care, or it can mean to read through in a leisurely way, possibly carelessly.
Help! (Yes, that's one too).

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