Homographs and Heteronyms


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

Grammatical Pet Peeves

Student PaperA year ago I saw a Facebook posting from a friend of mine, Rev. Tom Handrick, titled “Rants and Pet Peeves.” It brought to mind a few such pet peeves of my own, all grammatical. While a few of my peeves are the same as Tom’s, I have others. I’ll try to forego the ranting. Here we go:

  • Spelling the possessive of “it” as “it’s” which is actually the contraction of “it is”
    • The possessive of “it” is simply “its”
  • Making plural words out of last names and other personal nouns by adding ‘s (such as Johnson’s are coming for dinner) which makes them possessive words
    • A simple “s” without the apostrophe is all that’s needed to make a noun plural
  • Beginning a sentence with “me” instead of “I” as in “Me and Tom are eating”
    • The correct way is to say “Tom and I are eating”
  • Confusing “counsel” (a noun meaning advice or a verb meaning to advise) with “council” (a group)
  • Saying “as per” your request, which is redundant, instead of simply “per” your request
  • Saying “I told him, I said” instead of simply “I told him” or “I said”
  • Splitting an infinitive verb form (to go, to do, to take) with an adjective or adverb
    • The LCMS Mission Statement correctly includes the words “vigorously to make known the love of Christ” instead of the incorrect “to vigorously make known”
  • Referring to an inanimate object as “healthy” instead of “healthful”
    • Have you ever seen a sick store or a sick vegetable? Why call them healthy?
  • Using a singular noun with a plural pronoun:
    • Incorrect: Every child must bring their own lunch.
    • Correct: Every child must bring his or her own lunch.
  • Placing a modifier incorrectly:
    • Incorrect: Pray for the mother of Judy Smith, who died yesterday. (Who died?)
    • Correct: Pray for Judy Smith’s mother, who died yesterday. (Judy’s mother died.)
  • Using “irregardless” instead of simply “regardless”
  • Misusing “I” as an object and “me” as a subject
    • Incorrect: Susie gave Jane and I a tip on the race.
    • Correct: Susie gave Jane and me and tip on the race.
    • Hint: Take out “Jane” – Susie gave me a tip, not Susie gave I a tip.
  • Writing “your” (something belonging to you) when you mean “you’re” (you are)
  • Saying “unthaw” instead of simply “thaw”
  • Using the verb “affect” instead of the noun “effect”
    • Incorrect: What’s the affect of the rain on our picnic plans?
    • Correct: What’s the effect of the rain on our picnic plans?
  • Saying “loose” (not tight) when you mean “lose” (lost or can’t find)
  • Using “principle” (moral rule) instead of “principal” (person in charge)
  • Saying “lie” (recline) when you mean “lay” (put or place)
  • Using “advise” (verb) instead of “advice” (noun)
  • Other terms that are misused include:
    • “Farther” (physical distance) and “further” (figurative distance)
    • “Who” (nominative) and “whom” (subjective)
    • “Fewer” (specific numbers) and “less” (smaller quantity)
    • “Since” (refers to time) and “because” (causative effect)
    • “There” (location), “their” (belongs to them) and “they’re” (they are)
    • “Then” (point in time or as a result) and “than” (comparison)
    • “Could of” or “would of” or “should of” rather than “could, would, should have”
    • “Compliment” (saying something nice) and “complement” (adding to)
    • “Historic” (important event) and “historical” (happened in the past)

Others could be added to the representative group above. I fully expect to receive replies from some of you, adding your own particular examples.

Pet peeves may seem frivolous to some. Their abuse has no eternal consequence. Yet proper grammatical usage reflects, for better or worser (oops … for better or for worse) J on the user. That’s especially true in the case of folks who frequently write for public consumption or speak in public gatherings. Incorrect grammar is simply an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction!

So please accept this reminder as a respectful, fraternal encouragement to pay attention to grammatical correctness. Preachers, teachers, business leaders, parents and politicians, this includes all of you. Sometimes that’s easier to do than (not then) J at other times!

Many blessings!