I’m not a word doctor, but I am really good at words and want to help you help your words. Just think of me as an unlicensed linguisticologist.
In this installment, I learn ya how to hunt down homographs like the disgusting creatures they are, spatchcock them, and feed them to your own writing as a tasty snack.
What the crap are homographs?
Technically, homographs are words that are spelled the same way, and may or may not be pronounced the same way, although the difference in pronunciation is often just a shift in the accented syllable.
However, this is a boring definition, and I have talked to Webster about replacing theirs with the really cool definition I shat out below:
Homographs are words that swiped their letters from other words but wanted to confuse people so they made up their own meanings and demanded that people pronounce their names differently from the victims they stole their letters from in the first place. The bastards.
If you want to learn why homographs deserve to be victims of vocabicide, below are some damn examples:
When pronounced as a [uh-trib-yoot], “attribute” means “to think of as belonging to or originating in some person, place or thing”; when pronounced as [a-truh-byoot], “attribute” means a “characteristic or quality”.
- [uh-trib-yoot]: “Regarding my essay, ‘On the Benefits of Eating Your Neighbor’, my professor said that I need to make sure I properly attribute the quotes mentioned to the original cannibal scholars.”
- [a-truh-byoot]: “Apparently, cannibals are pretty sensitive about how they’re portrayed in middle school essays; forgiveness isn’t one of the finer attributes of people who went to Yale to learn how to eat other people. ”
When pronounced as [mohpt], “moped” is the past tense of “to act sad or gloomy”; when pronounced as [moh-ped], “moped” refers to “a bicycle with a motor”.
- [mohpt]: “Billy moped about how his stepdad won’t let him take his unregistered monster truck for a joyride at public parks.”
- [moh-ped]: “‘Don’t worry,’ I told him. ‘You can always ride my one-wheel moped. She gets great mileage — highway: 2, street: 1.’”
When pronounced as [reed], “read” means “to peruse written or printed matter”; when pronounced as [red], “read” is “the past tense and past participle of read [reed]”.
- [reed]: “My favorite books to read are those without words. Only pictures. I was born with a restraining order on letters, you see.”
- [red]: “In fact, I recently read a book that had nothing but blank pages. I can’t wait for the movie to come out!”
When pronounced as [lur-nid], “learned” means “having much knowledge”; when pronounced as [lurnd], “learned” is the “past participle adjective from learn”.
- [lur-nid]: “In addition to blowing up public property, my black market pyrotechnics professor is quite learned in the arts of getting rid of evidence and ‘eliminating’ enemies.”
- [lurnd]: “For example, I just learned how to ‘eliminate’ a political opponent with little more than a flare gun and a barrel of gasoline — and make it look like an accident, no less!”
When pronounced as [soo-er], a “sewer” is “an artificial conduit for carrying off waste water and refuse”; when pronounced as [soh-er], a “sewer” is “a person or thing that sews”.
- [soh-er]: “I’ve given up on being a professional sewer of clothing for hipsters. Sure the pay is good, but it’s hell on my beautiful calluses and I don’t plan on developing arthritis for at least another 6–8 months . Of course, now I’m left with the question: what am I going to do with 179 unsold sweater vests?”
- [soo-er]: “Maybe I can just feed them to the city’s sewer system by way of my toilet. You can get rid of outdated men’s fashion through indoor plumbing, right?”
Did you get all that? I can tell just by looking at you that you’re still not sure how words work. That’s ok, though; just keep on comin’ back and Ol’ Doc Garza’ll fix ya right up. I’ve taken that Hypocritical Oath or whatever, so you’re in good hands.
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