Monday, July 07, 2008

Aack! A Homophone!

By C. Lynn Beck
© 2008

Years ago in an English grammar class:

I sit at my desk, sweating hand grenades because I know Sister Mary Kellie (yes, I went to Catholic high school) will surely call on me. What will it be today? Diagramming sentences? Or discussing terms whose meaning I can never remember? Like the word homophone ….


I sit at my desk, sweating fully loaded, heat seeking missiles, (weapons have gotten bigger over the years, and so has my sweat) because I know I have a blog deadline due. What will it be today? Diagramming sentences? Nope, I can’t talk about that because I still can’t do it. Maybe I should discuss a term whose meaning I can never remember. Now what was that word? Aaah yes, homophone ….

If you’re like me, you have no clue what a homophone is, or what it means. So, I tried to figure the word out by its parts. “Homo,” which means … umm … well … okay, you know.

And “phone.”

See? That wasn’t so hard. It means Liberace’s gold-gilded telephone!

Actually, not. Homo means “same” and phone means “a speech sound.” Therefore, a homophone is a word with the same pronunciation as another word, but with a different meaning.1 A good example of this is “bread” and “bred.”

Homophones can cause mistakes in our writing and for that reason, I thought I’d mention a few that are common goofs.

● He's a shoo-in (not shoe)
● Yin and yang (not ying)
● Throes of passion (not throws)
● Mother lode (not load)
● Beyond the pale (not pail)
● Segue (not segway)

(Info from Accu-Assist’s Weekly Grammar Tips,

I should discuss one thing on that last word, “segue.” There is a motorized, two-wheeled vehicle that is called a Segway. It’s a cool looking machine, and I’d love to try it. If you’ve ever ridden one, let me know. But in the meantime, remember that the French spelled the real word, "segue."

Aaah, French. To quote my Spanish instructor, “Spanish, the language of the gods. French, the language of the devil.”

Oh, wait. Segue isn’t French. It’s Italian. So, “Spanish, the language of the gods; Italian the language of love.”

Or pasta. I’m not sure which.

1. Wikipedia contributors. "Homophone." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. (accessed June 30, 2008).

C. Lynn’s other work:
Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers, "Horse on Lap",pg 83
Life is Like Riding a Unicycle by Shirley Bahlmann, "Priming the Pump, pg. 79
Newspaper Column
Ensign Magazine, Dec 2007-Q&A
2007 League of Utah Writer's Award-Historical Fiction Website

What books C. Lynn recommends:
You Know You're a Writer When ... by Adair Lara
The Writer's Book of Hope by Ralph Keyes
Publishing Secrets by LDS Storymakers (BJ Rowley and others)



Karlene said...

Others I see all the time in my editing--
there and their
your and you're
peeked and piqued

Marsha Ward said...

Thank you for another laugh-out-loud post, C.L. I especially enjoyed it, coming at it from an editor's perspective.

Keith N Fisher said...

I am guilty as charged. I never make the there their they're mistake but I have a few others that cause me grief.

Cindy Beck, author said...

Those homophones are little buggars, aren't they? I just wish their was a way to remember witch was which. :)

(Yes, those errors are intentional:)

Marsha: Glad you enjoyed the post.

Keith: Don't feel bad, there aren't any of us who don't goof it up every once in a while!

Thanks to all of you for stopping by and commenting!