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Ever start thinking about a subject and have your brain reply to a thought with an eyeroll and, “Yes, Grandpa, you have told us about that before.” I was thinking about homonyms, never mind why, and thinking how they must be the bane of most writers’ existences. They are certainly mine.
Now, everyone who writes knows to watch for the common combinations. They’re the ones people get berated for most often on Farcebook and Twender. You know the ones: they’re/there/their and your/you’re/yore. (In days or you’re we used that word a lot.) But there are so many more homonyms that writers stumble over. It’s (ooh, another pair: its/it’s) just the way the brain works while we are composing a bit of text. Once we learn to type at a decent speed, the brain starts to go on semi-automatic. Pull the trigger by thinking of a word and the hands type it out. Or they type something like the word out. Usually it is a homophone.
Homonyms come in two types: homophones and homographs. (“Yes, Grandpa, we know.”) Homophones sound alike, but are spelled differently, like the metal “lead” and the action an army officer might do in the past (passed?) tense, “led.” That is opposed to homographs, which are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently. But what really can drive a writer to drink is the homophones that have homographs and vice versa. Like “read” and “read.” These two words are pronounced just like “reed” and “red.” And then there is the truly dreaded combination of desserts/deserts. Desert is actually a pair (or technically a quadruplet) of homographs. There are two related words that have the first syllable accented, such as the Gobi Desert, and there are two words that have the second syllable accented, meaning either one’s deserved reward (just deserts) or the action of getting out of the area and leaving your buds to face the music without you. Then there is the treat we have after a meal, which is spelled “dessert,” but pronounced like the latter pair of “deserts.”
Some of my favorite things that I discovered to my horror that my brain and fingers have misaligned on were typing “clamor” when I meant “clamber” and “climate” when I meant “climb it.” To be fair, the ladder* (heh, heh) was during the Great Climate Hoax of the Twenty-First Century when we heard and saw that word, climate, every day multiple times per day. Have I ever mentioned that before? (“Yes, Grandpa.”)
What are your most troublesome sets of homophones?
* Note to Editors: If you correct this spelling, the joke goes away. Don’t be that editor.Published in