24 March 2007

Those pesky homophones

I have to admit that I've never been able to understand people who can't spell. Inability to distinguish between homophones (words which are spelt differently but pronounced the same, such as pair/pare/pear or here/hear) is included in that.

I just found an oldish (31 Jan 07) post on homophones at Brooklyn Arden. She covers nine sets of homophones, including the pair that annoy me most when I find an example of their misuse:
faze: (v) to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt.
The squid was unfazed by my display of underwater kung fu.
phase: (n) a stage in a process of change or development; (v) to plan or carry out systematically by phases.
Common Phrases: phase in; phase out
Many young squids go through a Goth phase; only rarely is it cause for concern.

In a later, largely unrelated, post she has included one other pair of homonyms:
discreet: (adj) judicious in one's conduct or speech, esp. with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect; showing prudence and circumspection; decorous; modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious
If you'd like to tell a secret / I would recommend a squid; / They will listen to your story / And close tighter than a lid. / They're discreet, restrained, remarkable, / All ego and no id; / For confidence in confidantes, / Always trust the squid.
discrete: (adj) apart or detached from others; separate, distinct
Then I spied five discrete sucker marks on the knife, and I knew: Jack the Squidder had struck again.

I love the sentences she has included to illustrate the correct use of the various words. They remind me of two truly outstanding books on grammar and punctuation (which I just discovered have been released in new editions, which I simply must have), The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed (here) and The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed (here). Both books were written by Karen Elizabeth Gordon, who has also written a dictionary I need to buy.

And I'd thank whoever it was that sent me to Brooklyn Arden in the first place, but I've forgotten who it was....

1 comment:

eisha said...

This was excellent. But she didn't cover my pet peeve homophones-prone-to-misuse: effect and affect. I'll have to write my own squid-themed sentences to illustrate their use. Thanks for the link - I hadn't seen her blog before but I'll definitely be back.

You might also enjoy the SPOGG blog (the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar): http://grammatically.blogspot.com/.