Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

Homonyms, homophones, and confusingly similar words are fun.

I love’m.

So much writing on the Web is boring. Blah, blah, blah. Quack, quack, quack.  Especially self-absorbed personal blogs like Steve of Upland.

A mischievous homophone can pull an unwary writer’s pants down. Hilarity results.

Take, for example, these newspaper headlines . . .
Woman Kicked By Horse Upgraded To Stable
Married Priests In Catholic Church A Long Time Coming
Child’s Stool Great For Use In Garden

If you don’t see what’s so funny about child’s stool, see homonyms for log in my list further down in this posting.

Homonyms are two or more words that share the same spelling, or the same pronunciation, or both, but have different meanings.

Examples: bow (type of knot) and bow (to incline), heal (restore to health) and heel (back part of foot), sewer (one who sews) and sewer (drain).

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as there and they’re; to, too, two; and so, sew, and sow.

 Homographs share the same spelling, and sometimes the same sound, but have different meanings.

Sow, a female adult pig (pronounced sou), and sow, to scatter seed (pronounced soh), are homographs. Another example is well, as in wishing well, and well, as in well wishes.

A homonym you don’t often come across is the contranym. A contranym is a word that has two opposite meanings.

The word clip can mean attach to, as with a paper clip. Or clip could mean the exact opposite: cut away from. Clip this coupon and clip it to your grocery list

Contranym examples are dust (to sprinkle with something, as in dust crops) and dust (remove sprinkles from something, as in dust furniture); cleave (to cut apart) and cleave (to cling together); and pit (a hole, as in a coal pit) and pit (a solid core, as in a peach pit).

How the same word can have contradictory meanings is beyond me, but that’s the English language for you.

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as delegate and relegate, illicit and elicit, condensation and condescension.

Puns depend on homophones and confusingly similar words.

A pun, or play on words, is a cheap and easy way to get attention and (sometimes) a laugh, which is why annoying idiots like me like to use puns.

Businesses use puns to get attention and fix themselves in a customer’s memory

Such as the North Carolina window cleaning company Labor Panes.

Here are a few of my favorite business slogan puns:

Roofing company: For a hole in your roof or a whole new roof
Radiator shop: A great place to take a leak
Guns & ammo store: We aim to keep you loaded
Gynecologist: Dr Jones at your cervix
Butcher shop: Where quality meats service
Septic tank service: Your poop is our bread & butter
Plumber: A good flush beats a full house
Hair salon: We curl up and dye for you

A Call To Morrow Today Is All It Takes!

At the Sand Witch, a sandwich shop here in Upland, California, which (get it?) I visited Thursday (delicious roast beef sandwich, extremely fast & friendly service), a sign reads “Witch Parking Only, Violators Will Be Toad.”

I suspect the young ladies who run the Sand Witch Shop are witches, or Wiccans. I also suspect they’re Lebanese, if you know what I mean. Whatever. The sandwiches are devilishly good.

Rose between two thorns: The Sand Witch Shop has a gas station on one side and a recycling center on the other. It’s magic they do so well. Or maybe because the witches behind the counter are so friendly and the sandwiches so tasty.

Some (homophone: sum) of my favorite homonyms, homophones and confusingly similar words:

air atmosphere
heir inheritor
ere  before

aye  yes
eye  the organ of sight
I  not you, me
Ay-Yi-Yi! Eileen, I have an eye on you! Aye, I do! Eye on you! 

boarder lodger
boarder one who rides a snowboard
border  the outer edge of something

cheap inexpensive; stingy
cheep to chirp
Cheep! Cheep! Cheep! All the little birdies say Steve is cheap, cheap, cheap. ‘Cause Steve buys his birdseed from the 99-Cents Only store. 

complement something that completes
compliment  flattering remark

desperate  having an urgent need; leaving little or no hope
disparate  distinct in kind; essentially different

hair of the head
hare  a rabbit

log  trunk or large limb of a felled tree
log  detailed record of a trip made by a ship or aircraft
log  long, solid mass of feces; a stool; big piece of shit
Steve looks with disgust at Ensign Pulver. “You’re sitting on the captain’s log,” says Steve acidly. Pulver jumps to his feet and exclaims, “LOG! What log? We’re shipwrecked on a bloody desert island, you fool!” Capt. Marlow furrows his brow and thinks, “Steve is cracking up. Obviously my log went down with the ship.”

mall  area set aside for shopping
maul  to beat; to handle roughly

mind  I lost mine years ago
 belongs to me
mine  tunnel into the earth or buried explosive device
mined  tunneled under or laid with land mines

unwanted  not wanted
unwonted  rare; unusual
Steve thought his blog Steve of Upland creative, brilliant, so incredibly  unwonted — one of the Web’s true gems. Everyone else on the planet dismissed it as dull, derivative, and unwanted.

walk  stroll; sidewalk
wok  cooking utensil

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date. And please comment with your favorite homonyms . . .  OK, don’t. I don’t care.

One thought on “Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

  1. Thanks, Steve.
    A pleasure, as usual.

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