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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Word for Word

Under used words for the week:  
  • alacrity
  • genesis (the non-capitalized noun version)
  • jeepers

Speaking of words, I was researching the etymology and definition of the word “homonym” today, like you do, and was a little shaken. It was like Wikipedia was trying to blow my mind and prove me wrong all in one swift motion. After momentarily thinking that I had been using the incorrect word my whole English speaking life, turns out, I’ve only been partially wrong. *Gasp/Phew*.
Check it out:

“In linguistics, a homonym is, in the strict sense, one of a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings usually as a result of the two words having different origins. Examples of pairs of homonyms are stalk (part of a plant) and stalk (follow/harass a person), and left (opposite of right) and left (past tense of leave).”

Don't fret, you probably thought the same thing I have been thinking and you'd be partially right, as demonstrated here:

“In a looser non-technical sense, the term homonym can be used to refer to words that share the same spelling irrespective of pronunciation, or share the same pronunciation irrespective of spelling – in other words, they are homographs or homophones.[1] In this sense, pairs such as row (propel with oars) and row (argument), and read (peruse) and reed (waterside plant), would also be homonyms.”

 I have always used homonym is the broadest sense, unaware of the more detailed divisions. So, in the “strict sense” I’ve occasionally missused the word homonym, when I should have used heterograph, heteronym, homophone and alike. Here’s this helpful graph the explain the difference. PS. When you can Venn Diagram the English language its like two worlds colliding to make delicious…something, I don’t know...pie?

Moreover, it also turns out, Dr. Evil was right. Who doesn’t think of this line “I like to see girls of that... caliber. (comedic pause) By "caliber," of course, I refer to both the size of their gun barrels and the high quality of their characters... Two meanings... caliber... it's a homonym... Forget it,” when you hear the word “homonym?”

Speaking more about words, proper nouns will NOT be allowed in Scrabble contrary to some of the latest buzz, and as reported by NPR. Sigh.of.relief.  I had a boyfriend who was a Scrabble cheater. I believe it may have been a contributing factor in our demise. Kidding. Maybe.

Ok, that’s enough words about words for now. If you’re looking for more to read, you should check out David Brooks’ latest column, Roger Cohen’s latest column, and Wallance Stegner’s essay, “Everything Potent is Dangerous.”  Then let’s discuss.


MK said...

oh, c. only you. and that's just another reason i love you so much...

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