She blinded me with English. (Apologies to Thomas Dolby)

HOMONYMS, Homophones, HOMOGRAPHS, and Heteronyms

No, I’m not swearing at you, that lovely header up there describes the words that usually cause those of us who dabble in the writing of the English as she is spoke, the most trouble.

HOMONYMS are words that sound alike but have different meanings.

Homophones are a type of homonym that also sound alike and have different meanings, but have different spellings.

And then just to confuse you some more in your quest to nail down the niceties of the English language, we have:

HOMOGRAPHS are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.

Heteronyms are a type of homograph that are also spelled the same and have different meanings, but sound different.

Are we confused yet?

Because then we have words that are both homonyms AND homographs, with words like lie (tell an untruth) and lie (lay down prone) as well as fair (beautiful) and fair (reasonable) and then fair (Royal Show or gala).

I hope by now that I haven’t lost you, and that your eyes are not already glazed over, but you can see how having words that perform these juggling tricks of sound/meaning/spelling littering the English language make it a mine field to a lot of people.

I think on the whole my favourite would have to be these lovely lot of words.

bough (branch of a tree )
bow (the front of a boat)
bow (being polite and bowing at the waist)
bow (all pretty and tied up with a ribbon)
bow (shooting those poison arrows at my heart)

There are literally hundreds of these words, all lurking behind corners, in books, in the L space just out of sight, waiting to trip you over.

Let me provide a steadying hand.

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