Semantic reversals 2: benefactor/beneficiary

In today’s New York Times, in Michael Wilson’s “Living on His Own, Far From the Box”:

[Homeless man John Cornelius Foley] was an early benefactor of gentrification. Construction workers let him sleep in the new luxury buildings they were erecting. Just be gone in the morning, they told him. Police officers looked the other way when he slept in an alley off Houston Street. Just be gone in the morning.

That’s benefactor where its converse beneficiary would be expected: a semantic reversal for benefactor, which has picked up the meaning ‘one who gets benefits’ in addition to the meaning ‘one who gives benefits’.

This is #2 in a series; I posted the first, on ancestor / descendant reversal, a year ago. In that case, ancestor has picked up the meaning of  its converse descendant in addition to its older meaning (though there are some instances of reversal in the other direction).

Two more examples (from a respectable number) for benefactor / beneficiary:

Thanks to Catherine Pohlman and Corky Parma and their committees, along with everyone at St. Louis Church and School for making Blue Streak the benefactor of their generosity and hard work. (link)

The [Parent-Teacher Organization]s’ continued commitment to our school is beyond admirable, and we are fortunate to be the benefactor of their generosity. (link)

These are frequent enough that Brians’s Common Errors has an entry:

Benefactors give benefits; beneficiaries receive them. We expect to hear of generous benefactors and grateful beneficiaries.

But sometimes we get grateful benefactors:

The Chicopee Public Library will be the very grateful benefactor of this tourney. (link)

In September, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame was the grateful benefactor of Mr. Dickson’s personal memorabilia collection, much of which is now on display at the Hall of Fame. (link)

and the occasional generous beneficiary:

After she left, I took a couple of minutes to “Google” her generous beneficiary. (link)

In Utah, science doesn’t merely exist. It prospers. And for geneticists, the state has proven a generous beneficiary with a wealth of scientific data to contribute. (link)

Eventually, I’ll post more converse all-stars.


One Response to “Semantic reversals 2: benefactor/beneficiary”

  1. Complex reversal: confuse « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] to reversals: simple semantic reversals (for example, benefactor/beneficiary, ancestor/descendant, here) and argument-structure reversals (for substitute and blame, for example, […]

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