Janus, the Roman keeper of doorways

Churchmouse Campanologist

Janus was the ancient Roman god of beginnings and endings.

The Romans worshipped him at the beginning of the year. Early Christians worshipped underground at that time, which explains why January 1 has had special religious significance for over two millennia.

Janus was depicted with two faces, as illustrated in Wikipedia.

The month of January is named after him: closing the door on one year and opening the door to a new one.

In linguistics there are Janus words: those which carry contradictory meanings. Susie Dent, an English lexicographer and etymologist as well as the queen of Dictionary Corner on the brainy game show Countdown, explained in last week’s Radio Times (31 December 2016 – 6 January 2017):

Such words are usually known as contranyms: in other words, they have meanings that directly contradict each other, depending on the context. To „sanction“ something, for example, can mean…

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