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Bob Nailor

The Name Game

Back in 1964, a young lady by the name of Shirley Ellis released a song by that title and it was all about rhyming a person's name.

For a writer, rhyming a word like a poet isn't something they really want to do. In fact, you can have words sound alike and be spelled differently. Or, you can have words spelled exactly the same but sound differently. I'll explain.

Take these four (4) words: bough, bow, bow, beau.

The first two and the last two are spelled differently but pronounced the same. You probably noticed that the middle two are spelled the same.

The first set and last set are considered "homophones." That means they are spelled differently but sound alike.

The bough of the tree broke in the storm.
The anchor dropped from the bow of the ship .

It was a beautiful yellow bow on the present.
Mary's beau gave her a corsage.

For the middle set (bow, bow) they're called "homographs" and they are spelled the same but pronounced differently. See the example above.

For convenience sake, and to make things just a tad more confusing we also have what are called "homonyms" and they are spelled the same, pronounced the same, but have different meanings.

The dog's bark was fierce.
Some tree bark can be used to make a tea.

The only time this gets truly embarrassing is when a writer uses the wrong spelling of the word slipping a homonym into the sentence incorrectly.

One of the worst culprits is: yore, your, you're. Think of how many times you've read or written: Your going to like this. What you really meant was: You're going to like this.

For a great expanded list of homonyms, may I recommend Alan Cooper's webpage? This is a good list but there are several others available on the internet.

Writers need a plethora of words at their command, but they also must know which word, and its correct spelling, to use.

It's all about the Name Game

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Elyse Salpeter
I have to think that the English language must be the hardest thing in the world for people to learn. With all our slang, it has to be even worse. "Hey Joe, Dja Eat Yet? No Dju?"
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Diane Rapp
I think I know which words to use but somehow my fingers don't get the message. They stumble along spelling incorrectly and make me appear a dunce. Too bad spell checkers aren't as smart as they should be...or maybe my brain takes a vacation and lets those pesky fingers loose to lose the right definition. Alas, thanks for the reminder.
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