Homophones, Homographs, Homonyms · 24 July 2021

Homophones, homographs, and homonyms are interesting words in and of themselves.

When I was a kid, there were only homonyms. Those were words that sounded the same but had different meanings. They could be spelled the same. They could be pronounced the same. But they had different meanings. There, their, and they’re were and probably still are the epitome of homonyms. After all, people get those three mixed up all the time whether through not being able to English very well, or not being able to edit very well, or even just missing a typo every now and again.

Today, there are words to differentiate between words that sound the same but have different meanings or spellings (homophones), words that are spelled the same but have different meanings or pronunciations (homographs), and words that are either or both homophones and/or homographs (homonyms). Talk about confusing. Okay. Not confusing. Just more complicated than I remember. Like I said, back in the day, all those were called homonyms. Just like in definitions I just mentioned.

If you have been reading my blog for very long, you have probably seen me try to be clever using different homophones and homographs (what I would just call homonyms). I have passed off being clever in the past, and have even argued that the present is a present. I have said those things whether the weather outside was frightful or pleasant. And of course, I have used there, their, and they’re numerous times. Well, maybe not “they’re” since I do not like to use contractions in my writing. But do not get me started on that. (A completely different story. Which I have started. But who knows if I will finish. Ah well.)

At any rate.

Well, I thought there would be more to this blog post than a couple paragraphs and a couple hundred words. But then again, I do not suppose there are that many homophones, homographs, and homonyms out there. At least not interesting ones where you can use them both (or even more than two) in the same sentence when not talking about their usage in the English language.

By the way. Did you notice the improper usage of the word “English“ way up in the second paragraph. I do not know about you, but I am not fond of people changing nouns into verbs on the fly. It is a ludicrous practice and I would never do it. Okay. Maybe just the one time. Still, I think it odd when people nounify verbs and verbify nouns. Ah well. It is a practice that I do not want to practice.

Sorry that I got off the subject for a moment there.

Well to sum things up, remember that there are some things you can remember to differentiate between homophones, homographs, and homonyms. Remember that phones have to do with sound, so homophones have the same sound. Graphs have to do with pictures or looks, so homographs have the same spelling. And homonyms cover your bases because nyms is a different (Greek) way to spell names, which we all know can be spelled and sounded out in different ways by different people at different times in different places in different circumstances. So if you are ever in doubt whether you are talking about homophones (sound) or homographs (spelling) or just the weather (oops, not the weather), just use homonyms because you will be right. At least according to Merriam-Webster.

I hope that I have cleared up any confusion you might or might not have had about homophones, homographs, and homonyms. Or at least brought a little fun to Englishing.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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