Friday, July 07, 2006

Write Right, You Homonym!

The definition of a homonym can be complicated, depending on whether one desires the exquisite precision and the technical and etymological distinctions between varieties of -nyms, -phones and -graphs.
Or not.
In practical, grammatical terms, homonyms are those words which sound the same but have different meanings.
The ones that also have different spellings are the sneakiest.
Homonyms are responsible for some of those grievous errors that spell-check programs will not catch.
Homonyms encourage editors to practice bank shots.
Some have been known to shave their heads during slush pile week.
One may blame the audio generation and fonix werks 4 mee - but that's irrelevant.
Because of the sluttish character of our language and its generous adoption policy, English has lots of common homonyms.
Such as:
aloud/ allowed
course/ coarse,
council/ counsel
forth/ fourth
led/ lead
new/ knew
There are lots more if one wants to dig.

Writer's Second Rule: The dictionary is your friend.


Erik Ivan James said...

..."The dictionary is your friend"...

And so are you, Bernita, to us all, for the continuation of these excellent educational posts.

M.E Ellis said...

I can't tell you how much this one gets on my nerves. It just smacks of laziness:


When I see 'site' in an MS or short story instead of 'sight' it makes me want to scream!


Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik.
Always wonder if they are a bit redundant.
Most here never make these mistakes out of ignorance, I would think.

It was seeing that particular one that set me off on this post, Michelle!

Flood said...

What's it called when the word is spelled the same, but means and sounds different?

I read the book.

Did you read the book?

He is Polish.

Have you any shoe polish?

Scott said...

The funny thing is, I am not confused by homonyms. I'm so anal about spelling, and embarrassed as hell when I find myself out. Comments are notorious for them, as there isn't a spell checker to assist. Funny post. Our adoption policy...

James Goodman said...

Ah, yes I've fallen victim to this in more than one rough draft. It usually gives me a giggle when I go back for polishing. Of course, if I were smarter, it would give me a shiver wondering if I missed any since spellchecker doesn't flag such mistakes...

Bernita said...

Am sure there is a name, Flood, but I can't recall it at the moment.
In a pinch, I will fall back on calling it "English."

One doesn't need to be anal about spelling to be embarrassed, Scott.
~ rushes to check post~

Drafts don't count, James.
One writer - can't remember just who - said she/he had a program that inserted a dot between each word, forcing him/her on line edit to look at each word for just those things.

jason evans said...


The rule I learned about this one is that your principal in school is your "pal." (In the U.S., at least, the principal is the top administrator in a public school.) That one helped me. :)

In business, you have to be careful with capital/capitol.

Dennie McDonald said...

what sticks is spell check doesn't usually catch those so my CP and my DH laugh when I mess up - cause if you get just the right one it changes the entire context of teh sentance - it's too early to think of any sorry....

Bernita said...

Learned that mnemonic too, Jason!

The eyes beat the machine in the long run, Dennie, but spell-check is so nice.

Dakota Knight said...

Okay, why am I so bad with homonyms!

Erik is right, Bernita, you are a great friend! Your posts are invaluable.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Ooooh, incorrect homonyms is one of my pet peeves. It's right up there with it's/its confusion. Makes me crazy! Thanks for the post, Bernita. :-)

BTW -- I was sincere in that you're perceptive. I didn't think you were repeating the obvious; I could tell you knew what I meant along with what I said. Your insightfulness is greatly appreciated.

Jaye Wells said...

This reminds me of a radio commentary I heard the other day. There's a movement among some circles to change spelling education. These people want spelling to be based on phonics. Lazee basturds!

Bernita said...

If you are, Dakota - which I do NOT believe - it's because your brain is simply operating at high speed - plus you did not suffer from Miss Bustlewhistle's beady eye in English class.
She hammered the snot out of us over homonyms, antonyms and the like.

Thank you, Sonya, was afraid I had annoyed you.

Bernita said...

Oh, Jaye!
"lazee basturds"
~still giggling~
My attitude is in the middle between language nazis and laissez faire.
I think language should be allowed to develop by usage - organically.
Lawyers and copy editors might welcome this policy - ready made work!
For awhile.

kmfrontain said...

Homonyms are why proofreaders have work. Yay homonymonums!

Cynthia Bronco said...

That was fun. Could you do oxymorons next?

Bernita said...

Every cloud, etc., KM.

Not a subject I care to get into, Cynthia, while in the process of wondering if My Name + writer is one.

EA Monroe said...

meat -- meet

EA Monroe said...

insure -- ensure

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I'm glad you supplied a list..LOL...My brain is too tired to think of them, we've been passing out food and cleaning supplies all day!

I agree with Jason...I learned the same thing in school!

Bernita said...

A good one, EA.

In one incarnation ensure/insure mean the same.

A good tiredness though, Bonnie, knowing that you're able to give practical, concrete help.

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