Homographs and Heteronyms


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Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym. Here are some examples of both (author unknown):

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
9) I did not object to the object.
10) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
11) They were too close to the door to close it.
12) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
13) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
14) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? People recite at a play and play at a recital?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? One has to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which a house can burn up as it burns down, you fill in a form by filling it out, and noses run and feet smell!

English reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Throughout the history of mankind, including biblical times, words have been important. St. Paul writes: “When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.” 1 Cor. 2:13

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