Hay, now! Sew eye here that some peephole think words don’t madder. Aisle just bet their hostel to the idea that we pay a tent shun to words. They say it’s udder nonsense, neigh, feudal to insist on such!
OK, so I got a little carried away with the homophones, but there is a point—and not just because I’ve seen a lot of these lately, or that Sunday was Dictionary Day, in honor of Noah Webster’s birthday.
The words we use say a lot about who we are and what we consider important, and when you consistently use the wrong ones in your writing (such as “verses” rather than “versus,” or “to” instead of “too”), it says that you either are uneducated or just don’t care.
That means the serious among us are a lot less likely to respect or listen to you, especially if you’re a native English speaker.
Homophones can catch a lot of people off-guard—even editors—but should be understood … which a Utah language school apparently didn’t a couple of years ago when it fired its social media specialist for, he claims, promoting a gay agenda by publishing a blog entry on homophones. Tim Torkildson admitted there had been problems with previous posts, but said the school’s owner told him that particular post was “the last straw.”
I’d lay odds that the owner was absent the day his English teacher discussed homophones.
Sure, homophones may sound the same as other words, or at least very similar, but they don’t mean the same thing most of the time, which is why that first paragraph up there looks like word salad unless you read it out loud (but yeah, it’s still word salad … with extra cheese).
Using a homophone instead of the word you meant to use might be funny for the grammar-conscious reader … the first time. After that, it grates (and that’s not great), and tends to make some threaten bodily harm to the next writer who talks of someone “waiving” goodbye or “reeking” havoc.
(I wasn’t aware havoc had an odor, but OK …)
Yep, I’ve gotten both of those, multiple times.
When whatever is being written about is supposed to be taken seriously, it becomes very hard to do when wrong words are used. If you write that a Memphis mom was charged with the “grizzly” murder of her kids, don’t be surprised when the bear/Revenant jokes start pouring in. Yes, that should be “grisly,” and yes, an online news article reportedly did have the wrong word in the headline at first.
And if people start stripping in your store, you might want to have a look at that remodeling sign that says “please bare with us.”
You can better guard against using the wrong word by becoming like a certain conspiracy-minded presidential candidate (take your pick): Be paranoid.
No, I’m not saying you need to start telling everyone that everything’s rigged (it’s not), or that you should get a private server (really, don’t). I’m just saying you should be vigilant in double-checking your work. When those homophones are spelled correctly, spell-check won’t help; it’s all on you and checking your work, or having someone else check it for you.
Did you mean to write about that isle in the middle of the grocery store, or an aisle? Not sure when islands started sprouting up in stores, but … that would explain the coconuts, though …
Does that tool have a duel purpose or dual purpose? If it’s a sword or a gun, go with the first one … hammering nails with a gun isn’t a good idea.
Did you mean to steal yourself, or steel yourself? And if it is “steal,” with what crime would police charge you? Would your inability to bravely face critiques pull it down to petty larceny?
Is that a roll model or a role model? If it’s a politician, I seriously doubt it’s the second. And all of a sudden I have a yearning for a big, yeasty Your Mama’s roll … too bad they are no more.
Did you intend to say that combatants fought verses each other, or versus each other? If it was a sing-off, sure, I guess “verses” could be correct, but most of the time, no.
And was it a cereal killer, or a serial killer? If that cereal killer slayed three or more boxes, I guess that would make him a serial cereal killer.
OK, I’ll stop. It’s the leased I can do.
A few reminders now to letter-writers, especially in the run-up to the election. We’ve been getting a lot of letters, but a sizable portion of those are unusable for one reason or another.
Please remember that we can’t print everything we receive, and each letter-writer has to wait 30 days before being able to be published again. We do fact-check (meaning evidence rather than simply assertions), so that means a lot of stuff that appears to be straight from the campaigns won’t pass muster (plus, it’s hardly original when other people are repeating it as well). Keep in mind that the more information that needs to be checked, the longer it will take to process your letter. Libel, threats, profanity and the like won’t be printed, nor will we print something that should be reported to the Better Business Bureau or to legal authorities.
Above all, play nice, both to other letter-writers, and to staff; we don’t cater to bullies. Don’t make me call my big brothers.
(If you’re an Arkie, feel free to send us a letter by mail (Voices, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203), email (email@example.com), or through our handy-dandy form.)