Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more     nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass 

Humpty-and-alice (1)

The purpose of language is to convey meanings.

We depend on words to carry a thought from our head and deliver it to someone else’s head.

But sometimes words fail: they don’t communicate the meaning we had in mind.

When words fail, either we misused a word or a word misused us.

Mr. Dumpty misuses words; the words he chooses to express his thoughts only confuse Alice.

I don’t know what you mean by “glory,” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously.  ‘Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”’       from Chapter 6, Through the Looking-Glass

On the other hand, the English language is as idiosyncratic and illogical as Humpty Dumpty. Many words in our quirky language delight in deceiving us, delivering an entirely different meaning than the one we intended.  These trickster words are called homonyms.

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

So a word can look like duck, sound like duck, but not mean a web-footed swimming bird but something you do to dodge a blow or avoid an unpleasant task.

Mischievous homonyms can pull the pants down of the unwary writer, as seen in these newspaper headlines:
Prostitutes Appeal To Pope
Chicago Checking on Elderly in Heat
‘Bare Children in Mind’ Plea to Drivers [Sign seen on restaurant door: No Bear Feet Allowed]
Here’s How You Can Lick Doberman’s Leg Sores

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in meaning, such as ceiling and sealing, hours and ours, way and weigh.

Homographs share the same spelling, and sometimes the same sound, but have different meanings. Examples are close (to be near) and close (to shut), incense (a burnt aromatic) and incense (to make angry), and refuse (to deny) and refuse (garbage).

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as biannual and biennial, immanent and imminent, insolate and insulate.
I straighten out these tangled words for you in the list below.

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

allowed  permitted
aloud  in a spoken voice; not silently
Steve protested that reading aloud is not allowed in the library

altar  raised platform for worship or sacrifice
alter  to change

biannual  twice a year
biennial  once every two years
Steve’s curio shop, Bizarre Bazaar, has a biannual clearance sale and a biennial going-out-of-business sale

bole  stem or trunk of a tree
bowl  deep, round dish or basin
bowl  participate in a game of bowling

eminent  high in station or rank; prominent; distinguished
immanent  
internal or inherent
imminent  likely to occur at any moment

faces  have a difficult event or situation in prospect: the defendant faces a maximum sentence of ten years
feces  waste matter eliminated from the bowels; excrement
Following the dog feces fracas, Steve faces eviction

gull  to deceive or trick
gull  seabird
Steve tried to gull the gull with a plastic minnow

insolate  exposure to the sun’s rays
insulate  using various materials to prevent the leakage of heat
Insolate to get warm and insulate to stay warm

quail  lose heart or courage in difficulty or danger
quail  bird
quail TimBentz

shoe-in  common misspelling of word below
shoo-in  a candidate, competitor, etc., regarded as certain to win

soar  to fly aloft or about; to rise to heights
sore  painful

straight  having no bends, turns, or twists
strait  narrow channel connecting two bodies of water

wine  fermented grape juice
whine  to cry in distress, or in a high-pitched, complaining manner
Wine, wine, wine the night; whine, whine, whine the morning
wine flu

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words that I’ve posted to date.
—————————————

Animal Homophones

I have two bird words in my selection of favorite homonyms, homophones & confusingly similar words: gull and quail.

I’m working on a list of words for animals that are homophones, such as horse and hoarseGull and quail don’t count because they’re homographs — they have the same spelling as the words I pair them with. I just brought up gull and quail because they’re animal words and remind me of this Nelsonlist I’m working on, a list of animal homophones (same sound, different spelling). It’s a very interesting list and I’m having fun putting it together and …

Oh, you’re laughing at me. I know what you’re thinking: Dude, what a life you’re having!

Hey, what are you working on, a cure for cancer?

Anyway, here’s my work-in-progress list of animal homophones:
bear/bare
boar/bore
deer/dear
doe/dough
ewe/you
flee/flea  (you’re right: an insect, not an animal. So sue me)
fowl/foul
gnu/new
gorilla/guerilla
herd/heard
hare/hair
horse/hoarse
leech/leach  (leeches are worms, worms are animals, not insects)
lion/lyin’  (OK, I’m cheating a little bit here)
minks/minx  (a minx is a flirtatious girl; minks have beautiful fur)
owl/awl
tern/turn
whale/wail

Do any animal homophones occur to you? I’d appreciate suggestions, just use the comment box. Oh, the rule is, you can’t do a Google search. Has to come straight out of your own little head. Builds brain muscles that way, so you won’t get Al’s hemorrhoids when you’re old.

LittleHorse2

Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

 

Homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words trick unwary writers into hilarious bloopers, embarrassing errors, and the outright idiocy you see in print and on the Web.

How about this question on Yahoo! Answers:
Does allowing a dog to catch rats, squirrels, golfers and other vermin and eating them pose an unreasonable risk?

Or newspaper headlines that trip over homonyms …
Escaped Leopard Believed Spotted
Models May Underestimate Climate Swings
Helicopter Powered By Human Flies
Woman Kicked By Horse Upgraded To Stable
Police Find Crack In Man’s Buttocks

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

Homonyms come in two basic flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in meaning, such as right and write, flee and flea, see and sea.

Homographs share the same spelling but have different meanings. An example is bear, meaning to hold, and bear, the big, furry mammal: Steve couldn’t bear to see the bear chained to a tree.

We also have heteronyms, words that share the same spelling but have different pronunciations. Heteronyms are homographs that are not homophones: Steve, you can either go bass fishing or play your bass guitar, which is it?

Click to enlarge

A really cool graph by Will Heltsley shows at a glance how words related by pronunciation, spelling, or meaning are categorized: Homograph Homophone Venn Diagram.

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as conscious and conscience, lightening and lightning, and of course, penal and penile.
Steve said it was “penile-related crime” that landed him in a penal institution.

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

abdominal  having to do with your belly abdominal pains
abominable  detestable; loathsome an abominable crime

Doesn’t look particularly abominable, but he’s definitely not an abdominal snowman

baloney  foolish or exaggerated talk
bologna  the lunch meat
Steve says it’s baloney that all he eats is bologna sandwiches

flour  powder made by grinding cereal grains
flower  the pretty part of a plant that houses reproductive structures

poor  indigent
pore  to gaze at intently
pore  small opening, as in the pores of your skin
pour  to cause to flow in a stream

That’s what the beaver said!

pussy  cat
pussy  vulgar, slang: female genitalia

Here’s a heteronym of the above two words:
pussy
  medical: containing or resembling  pus
Same spelling but different pronunciation — rhymes with fussy.

quiver  carrying case for arrows
quiver  shake or tremble

real  actual; genuine
reel  revolving device on which something flexible is wound

wound  past tense of wind – to coil about something; bend; turn; meander
wound  injury
————————————————

Chinese takes the gold in homonyms

I love the hilarious mischief, awful puns, and silly wordplay the English language’s many homonyms, homophones & confusingly similar words make possible.

But if I really want to have fun with words, maybe I should learn Chinese.

The Chinese language has far more homonyms than English. Nearly every Chinese word has multiple homophones.

And with half-a-billion Chinese on the Internet texting and blogging, the Chinese have become world champs in puns and wordplay, both for amusement and to avoid censorship.

That’s what I learned in a fascinating article by Nina Porzucki posted on the world in words, a WordPress blog I enjoy from public radio reporter Patrick Cox. Here’s an excerpt …

How Technology is Changing Chinese, One Pun at a Time

When Sabrina Zhang and Jack Wang took their high school writing exam in China they remember a funny new rule written at the bottom of the test.

“You can’t use Internet words in the writing,” remembers Zhang. But, says Wang, “It’s just natural right when we use it. It’s the youth way of expressing ourselves.”

What might seem like the petty irritation of an old-fashioned professor might actually be something bigger.

The Internet has become a place for people to play with the Chinese language

There are now more than 500 million people online in China. They are microblogging, instant messaging, texting. The result is changing the Chinese language says David Moser, an American linguist living in Beijing.

According to Moser, the Internet has become a place for people to play with the Chinese language. Puns and wordplay have a long history in Chinese culture.

Chinese is the perfect language for punning because nearly every Chinese word has multiple homophones. Homophones are two words that sound similar but have different meanings like hare that rabbit-like creature and the hair on your head. In Chinese there are endless homophones.

Forbidden or taboo words in Chinese are taboo precisely because they sound like another word

“Because there are so many homophones there’s sort of a fetish about them,” says Moser. “As far as the culture goes back you have cases of homophone usage and homophone humor.” Many times forbidden or taboo words in Chinese are taboo precisely because they sound like another word.

4 = Death, 8 = Prosperity

A good example of this is the number four, which in Chinese sounds like the word for death and the number eight, which sounds like the word for prosperity. Moser has a Chinese aunt who used to work for the phone company and she could make money selling phone numbers. People would beg her for a phone number with a lot of eights. “People would actually give her gifts or bribes for an auspicious phone number,” says Moser.

The Internet is ripe with clever examples of how people evade the censors

Today, wordplay online has less to do with getting auspicious numbers and more to do with getting around censorship. Moser cites an example of a recent phrase he saw online mentioning the Tiananmen Square incident – only the netizen didn’t use the words “Tiananmen Square” or even 6/4, which refers to the date the incident took place. Tiananmen Square and 6/4 are both censored online. Instead the netizen referred to the “eight times eight incident.” Moser was confused when he first saw the reference. “And then I figured out, eight times eight is 64,” says Moser.

The Internet is ripe with clever examples of how people evade the censors. However, censorship is just one reason netizens play with words online. Another is the very technology that enables people today to input Chinese characters onto their cell phones and computers.

Read the complete article here

Ha! Ha!

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

board

bored

Homonyms are words that sound the same and sometimes even have the same spelling, but they have different meanings and origins.

Examples are axe and actsblue and blew, and clip (fasten, as with a paper clip) and clip (detach, as with clippers).

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as totootwo; for, fore, four; and aisle (passage), I’ll (I will), and isle (island).

Homographs share the same spelling, and often the same sound, but have different meanings. An example is well, as in wishing well, and well, as in well wishes. Other examples are lead (to go first) and lead (type of metal), minute (60 seconds) and minute (very small).

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as elicit and illicit, forgo and forego, principal and principle.
Unscramble these confusingly similar words in the list below.

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

arrant  extreme arrant nonsense
errand  mission; short trip
errant  traveling; straying

creak  harsh noise
creek  small stream

die  expire
die  engraved stamp for impressing a design
die  singular of dice
dye  to color

elicit  to bring out
illicit  unlawful

flea  insect
flee  to run away
Steve has a secret potion to make fleas flee and flies fly off

forgo  do without
forego  to go before, precede

gilt  gold leaf or paint applied to a thin layer of a surface
gilt  young female pig
guilt  culpability for an offence,  crime, or wrong

gin  a type of booze
gin   a trap or snare. Verb to set up a snare; exaggerate
Gin & tonic is a gin to Steve’s common sense

gnu  animal
new  not old
knew  understood
The new gnu knew he had to fit in fast with his adopted herd –   hungry lions watch for loners

The new gnu turns on the charm in a desperate bid to fit in

mignon small & pretty
minion servile follower
The chef’s minion served Steve a filet mignon

patient  a person under medical care
patient  quietly & steadily persevering
Steve was a patient patient: he didn’t complain about the old magazines in his doctor’s waiting room nor the hour-long wait

plain  ordinary & uncomplicated
plane  flat
plane  airplane

Principal Skinner

principal  adj main, foremost; noun person who has controlling authority
principle  fundamental law, rule, doctrine, or code of conduct
The guiding principle of Principal Skinner is to bring order into chaos at Springfield Elementary; Bart Simpson’s principal principle is to bring chaos into order. 

rain  wet stuff that falls from sky
rein  to check or stop
reign  to rule

From my New Oxford American Dictionary . . . 
USAGE: The idiomatic phrase free rein, which derives from the literal meaning of using reins to control a horse, is sometimes misinterpreted and written as free reign — predictable, perhaps, in a society only vaguely familiar with the reigns of royalty or the reins of farm animals. Also confused is the related phrase rein in, sometimes written incorrectly as reign in.

ware  goods
wear  to bear or have on the person
where  at, in, or to what place

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.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

Homonyms are words that look and/or sound identical, but — Surprise! – they have different meanings

Words that look the same
sewer (one who sews) and sewer (pipe to carry off waste matter)

Words that sound the same
hair 
(of your head) and hare (a bunny rabbit)

Words that look & sound the same
tick (recurring click, as of a clock) and tick (bloodsucking insect)

Homonyms come in two flavors:

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as totootwo and their, there, they’re.

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.

And then there’s just plain confusingly similar words, such as adverse and averse, delusion and illusion, and prostate and prostrate.

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

close proximity to
close  shut, not open

ewe  female sheep
yew  tree
you  pronoun

groan  deep sigh
grown  increased in size

holy  pure, sacred
wholly  completely

idol  image
idle  unemployed
idyll  poem

literal  true to fact; not exaggerated
littoral  of or pertaining to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean

peak  the pointed top of a mountain – or tip-top of anything, really
peek   to look furtively; to peer through a crack or hole or from a place of concealment

refuse  no! I don’t want it!
refuse  trash, garbage
Steve of Upland is the Internet’s refuse, many browsers refuse it

toe  one of the digits on your foot
tow  pull along with a rope, chain, or tow bar

way  thoroughfare
weigh  to ascertain the heaviness of
whey  thin part of milk

weak  lacking strength
week  seven days

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words that I’ve posted to date.

The Homonym Name Game

Ann 
an indefinite article:  the form of a before an initial vowel sound

Bob 
bob make a quick, short movement up and down

Drew
drew past tense of draw

Flo
flow to move along in a stream

Frank 
frank open, honest, and direct in speech or writing

Gail
gale  a very strong wind

Grace
grace  simple elegance or refinement of movement; courteous goodwill

Harry
hairy  covered with hair

Hugh
hew  to uphold, follow closely, or conform
hew  to make, shape, smooth, etc., with cutting blows 

John 
john a toilet or bathroom

Joy 
joy emotion of great delight or happiness

Lou 
loo water closet — a toilet

May 
may  the verb may expresses possibility — It may rain, and also denotes opportunity or permission:  You may enter.

Mike 
mic microphone

Nick
nick  make a notch in, indent; just catch in time

Pat 
pat  touch quickly and gently with the palm of the hand

Patty
patty a thin, round piece of ground or minced food: a hamburger patty.

Phil 
fill  to put into as much as can be held: to fill a jar with water

Phillip 
fillip  something that adds stimulation or enjoyment

Randy 
randy sexually aroused; lustful; lecherous.

Sally
sally to rush out suddenly

Sandy 
sandy containing or covered with sand

Stu 
stew a dish of meat and vegetables cooked slowly in their own juices

Sue 
sue bring a civil action against

Tony 
tony fashionable among wealthy or stylish people.

I know there must be many more names for my Homonym Name Game list. Can you think of any? Maybe your name is a homonym. Leave a comment!

Hey! I just thought of another one:
Brandy
brandy strong alcoholic spirit distilled from wine.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

I can sort of understand why Dr. Glass named her business A-Whole Chiropractic:
A to get top billing in the Yellow Pages and
Whole ‘cause she makes her patients whole.

But, Dr. Glass, every writer has to keep a wary eye out for homonyms, homophones, and confusingly similar words. They can cause a lot of mischief, embarrassment and misunderstanding.

From the Urban Dictionary
A-hole
The polite way to use the wonderful expletive, ASSHOLE. They use this ALL the time on the radio, but I mean c’mon, it means the same damn thing…
Frank McCourt, previous owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the biggest a-hole in baseball, maybe the world

Remember, your readers’ minds (at least if they’re like me) are in the gutter.

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

Examples: bear (big, furry animal) and bear (to carry or support; endure), flea (an insect) and flee (to run away), earn (to achieve as a result of action) and urn (ornamental vase for holding ashes of the dead).

Homonyms come in two basic flavors:

Homographs share the same spelling, and sometimes the same sound, but have different meanings. Steve couldn’t bear to see the bear chained to a tree

Examples:  bow (type of knot) and bow (to incline), desert (abandon) and desert (arid land), and carp (a fish) and carp (to complain).

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as for, four, fore; there and they’re; and totootwo.

Written homophones are easy to spot. As you read, your eye scans a sentence and quickly understands the context in which a homophone is used.

The eye may not be fooled, but the ear stumbles over spoken homophones, resulting in a thoroughly confused listener. Juan won one two-to-one, too sounds like a series of numbers: 1-1-1-2-2-1-2.

Homophones and confusingly similar words are the stuff that malapropisms and mondregreens are made of.

A malapropism is the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of similar sound, with humorous results. Such as in this classified ad: Butchered peasants, $5 each. [Pheasants]

While a malapropism is misuse of a single word, a mondegreen is misinterpretation of a phrase or series of words that sounds like another phrase or series of words – and like malapropisms, the mistake is often amusing.

Mondegreens happen when people mishear song lyrics.

In Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic song Bad Moon Rising, have you always heard “There’s a bathroom on the right” instead of the actual lyrics, “There’s a bad moon on the rise”?

In Purple Haze, does Jimi Hendrix say “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy” or do you hear the true lyrics, “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky”?

Those are two common mondegreens.

My favorite mondegreen is from Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets, “She’s got electric boobs, her mom has two” for “She’s got electric boots and mohair shoes.”

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

abjure  to renounce
adjure  to command, as under oath
Steve, we adjure you to forsake and abjure your stupid blog, Steve of Upland

adverse  opposed; hostile
averse  having a feeling of repugnance or distaste; disinclined
Steve is averse to give up his blog and cannot understand the adverse reaction Steve of Upland generates

ascetic  severe self-discipline and abstention from pleasure
aesthetic  love of beauty; concerned with pure emotion and sensation
Steve shifted from an aesthetic life to an ascetic existence after marrying Lizzie

bought  purchased
brought  past tense of bring: to carry, convey; to come with

can’t  cannot
cant  hypocritical and sanctimonious talk

Lisa Simpson encounters cant from an unexpected source

closure  bring to an end; conclusion
cloture  a method of closing

dew  moisture, especially in droplets
do  to act
due  owing

endemic  belonging exclusively or confined to a particular place
epidemic  extremely prevalent; widespread

hear  give heed or attention to what is said; listen
here  in this place

picnic  an outing where a packed meal is eaten outdoors
pyknic  having a rounded build or body structure; noun: a person of the pyknic type, like Roy here …

Roy is in great shape (round is a shape)

read  to peruse
reed  tall grass

read  past tense of read I read it in a magazine
red  the color

spruce  a type of tree
spruce  to make neat or dapper (often followed by up)

weald  wooded or uncultivated country
wield  to exercise power; to use effectively

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date.

Want to see all my postings on Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words? Click here

And please comment with your favorite homonyms. I’d also like to know your favorite malapropism or mondegreen.

I’m gonna watch some cartoons while I wait for your response.

I guess because Mickey is a mouse and not a person this doesn’t count as animal abuse. It’s animal-on-animal cruelty. And, hey, it’s just a cartoon! Like Itchy & Scratchy in the Simpsons.

Itchy and Scratchy cartoon

Click to see every Itchy & Scratchy segment ever made in one violently long supercut (48-minutes)

I do not want to hear your cant about how averse you are to the epidemic of gratuitous violence in the media. A-wholes like me love this stuff! What power do you wield to censor others? Life’s no picnic, you know! Or have you bought into the Big Lie? If you read my blog, that’s what you get – the TRUTH. I won’t spruce up the facts for you or anyone! Now you have me seeing red!

Let’s bring this post to closure.

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
mine
 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.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Confusingly Similar Words

Homophones are words that share the same pronunciation but differ in spelling and meaning, such as totootwo; and so, sew, and sow.

Homographs share the same spelling, and sometimes the same sound, but have different meanings. An example is well, as in wishing well, and well, as in well wishes.

Words that share the same spelling but have different sounds and meanings are also called heteronyms. Sow, a female adult pig (pronounced sou), and sow, to scatter seed (pronounced soh), are heteronyms; they’re homographs, too.

And then there’s confusingly similar words, such as affect and effect, desert and dessert, flammable and inflammable (both mean combustible, easy to catch fire).

Homophones and confusingly similar words are the stuff that malapropisms are made of. A malapropism is the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of similar sound, with humorous results. Before grampaw could read my poem, he had to put on his testicles. [spectacles]

Malapropisms from Gloria on Modern Family

“Don’t give me an old tomato.” [ultimatum]

“Blessings in the skies.” [in disguise]

“Carpool tunnel syndrome.” [carpal]

“It’s a doggy dog world.” [dog-eat-dog]

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

colonel  an officer
kernel  seed in a nut

delusion  misleading of the mind
illusion  misleading of the mind as well as a misleading of the senses
The lake mirage, far on the desert horizon, was a tantalizing illusion. Steve, crazed by thirst, gave into the delusion that if he flapped his arms hard enough, he could fly to it.

Though the words overlap in meaning, delusion is the stronger word. Illusion, however, is the more common word.

discreet   tactful, prudent, circumspect; keep something quiet
discrete   separate, detached, individually distinct
A discreet way to inform a gentleman his pants are unzipped is to lean forward and whisper in his ear, “Pardon me, sir, your fly is down.” Discrete from this is the following method… point at the poor guy’s groin and say loud enough for everyone to hear, “Hey! Got a license to sell hot dogs? Your fly’s open, pervert!”

Thanks to computer spelling checkers and unthinking writers, discreet and discrete are so often “misspelled” and mixed up that we all might as well throw our hands up and allow interchangeable spelling for these two words.

Wait a minute! If we did that, discreet / discrete and discrete / discreet would become both homophones and homographs – two, two, two mints in one!

The Word Detective, a great blog for word lovers with a sense of humor, dissects discreet / discrete

eruption   sudden violent discharge; outbreak
irruption   sudden violent entrance; invasion

flew  did fly
flue  chimney
flu  influenza

hail   ice
hale   salute, greet; summon
hale   healthy

insight  seeing deeply into something
incite   pick a fight

pare  whittle down
pair   two of something
pear  fruit shaped like that nice woman who lives across the street
Oh, there she is now!

precisian   a person who is rigidly precise or punctilious, especially as regards religious rules. The Puritans who landed at Plymouth Rock were precisians. So, I guess, are the Taliban.
precision   accuracy; exactness

steal   take without permission
steel   iron treated with intense heat and mixed with carbon to make it hard and tough

tire   to become weary.
tire   ring of rubber, usually inflated with air, placed around the rim of a wheel to provide traction and cushion the ride. The British spell it tyre, and thereby change a homograph to a homophone.
I quickly tire of Steve’s stupid blog. I’d rather change a flat tire in the pouring rain than read it.

vice   moral fault or failing
vise   tool with tight-holding jaws

waiver   relinquishment of a right or obligation
waver   someone who vacillates or is unsteady

See my master list of all the homonyms, homophones, and other confusingly similar words I’ve posted to date.

I’m gratified by reader response to my blog. As you can see by all the comments, people love it!

Here’s a typical reaction to Steve of Upland . . .