Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spell Czech want help yew hear

These words sound correct, but they're wrong: towed the line, deep-seeded, dire straights, nearly penultimate, incentiary, reeking havoc, hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, viscous/vicious, causal/casual, clamoured to her feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen.

Some of these are homophones, words that are pronounced the same as other words but spelled differently.

Elsewhere in the world of words, a homograph shares the same written form as another word but has a different meaning:
  • agape – with mouth open OR love
  • bass – type of fish OR low, deep voice
  • bat - piece of sports equipment OR an animal
  • bow – type of knot OR to incline
homonym shares the same spelling and pronunciation with another word but has a different meaning. Thus homonyms are simultaneously homographs and homophones. 

Take the word fluke. A fluke can be:
  • A fish, and a flatworm.
  • The end parts of an anchor.
  • The fins on a whale's tail.
  • A stroke of luck.
Thus, fluke can describe both my boss and how he got his job.

Here's a handy chart for those of you who need something on the wall.

HomographDifferentSameSame or different
HomophoneDifferentSame or differentSame
PolysemeDifferent but relatedSameSame or different
Different when
Same except for
Same or different

By the way, for those of you whose eyes have yet to glaze over, the state of being a homonym is called homonymy.

Eat it up!
This is just like hominy, except it isn't.

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