Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Oversight v oversight an oversight

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-10-26

Consider the following phrase: "The oversight of the financial sector has caused the current economic brouhaha"

Having a problem figuring out the semantics? Is the ambiguity of the noun "oversight", together with the over-confidence in the semantic reading of text all-too-common among managers (whether of companies or governments) part of the problem?

In one sense, "oversight" refers to a screwup, in another, it means what you do to avoid screwups.  In sense one, the culpable people are those in the the financial sector.  In sense two, the culpable people are in politics.

What is interesting about the sentence above is that even though the noun "oversight" is its own acronym, both assertions (at least to a lefty) are patently true.

Apart from slang "cool/hot", or "bad/wicked"(="good"), does anyone know of any other auto-antonyms (if there is such a word)?

Let’s throw that into the descriptivist/prescriptivist language maven debate.  Maybe if the prescriptivists were in charge, such ambiguities wouldn’t occur.

Until then we might see headlines such as ‘"Greater financial oversight" urges government’.  Figure that one out.


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