Ok, you all know homonyms (words with multiple meanings) – like suit – that suits you or the black tie suit. Now, take the same idea, but apply it to actions. Waving, for example can mean hello or goodbye.
Stevie Smith, a British poet, uses this idea in her poem, Not Waving but Drowning.
“Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, They said.
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.”
While the action of waving can look like a greeting, an attention getter, something welcoming, it actually also could be a goodbye or a drowning, an attempt to get help.
Thinking along these lines, are there any other actions that could have multiple meanings? Maybe, try to come with a time you did something that someone else misinterpreted.
Comments open for any thoughts, examples or whether you liked Stevie Smith’s poem.
It’s not one of my favorite poems, but I like it, and for some reason I find it funny.