While writing a short story in which a computer programmer betrays his company, I brought up an event where Henry (the programmer) cleverly gets into the company's billing software and pads a few bills. For this, he needed to understand the entire system first.
I know a word, a verb in fact, 'exploit.' Now, this means to make a productive use of something. So, I wrote,
Kane was shocked seeing Henry who was still dedicatedly working on the computer even after everyone else had left. It was not the kind of thing he usually did. Kane walked down to him and casually asked the reason, to which Henry replied that he was just exploiting the new billing software.
While confirming the meaning of the word, I was shocked to see a meaning of the same verb that said something completely opposite. 'exploit' means to use something in an unfair way for your own advantage.
All dictionaries support that 'exploit' means ....
to use something unfairly for your advantage, and
to use something fairly for your advantage!
Now, this sparks a question in my mind. What if a word has two exactly opposite meanings? How would one guess the meaning then?
The negative meaning of exploit actually destroys the suspense of the story as Henry was actually manipulating the software for his own advantage! :(
I see that people have started digressing. Let's not get into the nuance of what Henry's profession is. The question is about a word with both positive and negative meanings and how it creates confusion. While I did not want to reveal the truth of Henry betraying the firm, using 'exploit' created that effect.