It’s been hard lately to find much to laugh about, with tales of death and destruction (Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Iran/Iraq, etc.) sharing the stage with sexual misconduct (Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K.—ewwww, Roy Moore, etc.).
And yet, it’s possible. Probably a bit in bad taste at the moment, but possible.
What could it possibly be? Why, it’s talk that a U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama behaved in a less than moral manner with miners.
Yes, miners. Because they haven’t suffered enough, what with the injuries and disease risks that come with the profession, as well as the loss of jobs to the times and technology. That’s just mean. But at least a few people have visited that insult on them.
Seriously, sexual misconduct in any situation, regardless of party (because apparently that has to be part of the equation now), is not a laughing matter, but when homophones enter the picture, it’s difficult for word nerds with a weird sense of humor to hide a smirk. No, that doesn’t mean that we’re insensitive to those women and men who have suffered through the years because of sexual assaults; it simply means that we can find humor even in horrible situations. Sometimes that’s the key to maintaining sanity in a world such as we have today.
So yes, yet again I go to the homophone well for something humorous—not humerus, the bone I shattered nearly nine years ago (and no, it wasn’t funny).
Homophones, you’ll recall, are words that are pronounced the same, but aren’t spelled the same or have the same definitions. They have the tendency of making you look like an idiot if you use the wrong one in, say, a tweet, business presentation, or newspaper article. And let’s face it, some of us don’t need any help looking like a dummy.
Not like me when I was a kid worried about armed gorillas in Central America. The movie King Kong thus held a whole other level of fright for me. Planet of the Apes? Horrors!
Everyone’s familiar with the they’re/there/their and to/too/two homophones, and everyone will have made a mistake using them at least once. If you haven’t made those mistakes … well, are you sure you’re human?
For years as a copy editor, I often saw the same mistakes over and over, whether it was on the day desk or the night desk (and still do, including in my own writing). Perhaps it’s just force of habit to assume you are correct in your word choice, but when spell-check won’t save you, homophone mistakes are more likely to happen since the responsibility for catching them is on you (you slacker, you). Here are a few that trip people up.
👋 Waive and wave—If one waves extradition, does extradition wave back? I can’t tell you how many times I saw this in crime stories. The proper word to use when talking about giving something up or refraining from something is “waive.” The proper word for the motion you make with your hand—whether royally, like screwing in a light bulb, or like a windshield wiper (and I still remember a Miss Greek pageant in college when one of the contestants did a comedy routine on this)—is “wave.” And if you generally do the windshield wiper, remind me not to stand next to you.
⌛ Waist and waste—If someone writes “what a waist,” I assume they’re talking about one of those people doing waist training with the odd corsets (my waist is totally untrained … can’t do a thing with it), completely disregarding the stress those people are putting on their internal organs just for the sake of a figure they could never naturally have. Personally, I think that’s a bit of a waste.
🏰 Manners and manors—Many people probably have one or the other, while a few have both. (I have one, and I’ll let you guess which one that is.) Unfortunately, there are more than a few who have neither. Their mamas didn’t raise them right, and they make far too little to own anything that could be considered a stately manor. Pointing that out, though, is a bad idea. And bad manners.
🍷 Wine and whine—I really have no idea how people manage to confuse these, but they do. Again, wine is an alcoholic drink produced with fermented grapes, while whine is a usually high-pitched complaint, rather more peevish than legitimate complaints. (“They said ‘happy holidays’! They’re persecuting me!” versus “This chicken is still pink. Could you cook it more so I won’t become deathly ill, please?”) Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised, though, since some of the same people who confuse “wine” and “whine” also confuse “winning” and “whining,” which aren’t even homophones. So much whining, I’ve become bored!
🐍 Mores and morays—You’d think that people wouldn’t mix up shared social customs (mores) and eels (morays), but you’d be wrong. I’m not convinced those people should be allowed access to social media accounts. There’s only so much we can take.
😵 Phase and faze—A phase is a period or stage, such as when I decided I hated the spelling of my nickname (Bren) and insisted that everyone spell it “Brynne.” That didn’t last long. As a verb, it means to work something in systematically.
Faze means to bother. Some people are annoyed by my word columns, but that doesn’t faze me. I must be true to my little-sister creds and just annoy them right back. My brothers tell me I’m very good at it.
While it’s very easy to appear uneducated in spoken communication, it’s even easier in some respects in written communication, where your spelling and other errors are out there for everyone to see. And in a professional context … oh, that’s bad.
Because spell-check won’t catch homophones (I’ve often said there should be a contextual spell-check), it’s up to you to catch your mistakes, which means you need to care about what you’re writing. If you don’t, maybe you’re in the wrong profession if it happens to be one where you write at all.
Someone said the mining industry was picking up, so maybe try there. Just be careful of those people who want to be indecent with miners.