Win a Celery Stalks At Midnight Can A Balled Bare Bear Bee Far Behind?: Vocabulary Goes Bad with Homonyms!

Today Vocabulary Gone Bad wanders off into slightly knew territory.  Eye no eye no, knot what ewe where expecting but poor word usage is not merely florid overdone writing or  words that stop you in the proverbial tracks with there shear horridness.  It’s also words are being used in a manner not befitting their definition, spelling or meaning. Of coarse, I wouldn’t waist my thyme on just any we problem but homonyms are popping up every wear I look and its thyme to reign this in bee fore its to late!  To misquiote  Jessica Rabbit  the words aren’t bad, they are just used that way.  OK, enough of that nonsense, back to the writing at hand.

So let’s way in first with definitions.  OK, I couldn’t resist, this quickly becomes addictive. Sigh.  Homonyms are words that sound the same and sometimes even have the same spelling, but they have different meanings and origins. Examples are so and sew, here and hear, and bear (the animal), bear (to tolerate), and bare (naked).  This is an especially important difference when it comes to m/m fiction.  Let’s not mix up our bare bears or even barely naked bears shall we?

It can be further divided into two categories.  Homophones are words that sound identical but differ in spelling and meaning, such as to, too, two; and so, sow, sew.  Two young studs busy sewing their oats takes on a hole new meaning doesn’t it?  And then there is Homographs. Homographs are words with the same spelling and often with the same sound, but have different meanings. An example is well, a hole drilled in the earth to obtain water, and well, in good health.  I am including a chart, a little simple but I like being helpful so hear it is. Ha! Tack it above the keyboard, use it often.  You’ll thank me.  Really, you will.  Back to our issues at hand.

Why homonyms piss me off.  There I was happily reading my m/m fiction.  My two handsome hunks are cheerfully engaged in all things sexual and it happened.  Alan is getting busy making Slade a very happy boy.  Alan raps his hand around Slade’s…..wait, what?  Did I just read “rap”?  Is Tupac back? Why is Alan rapping in bed? Argh! Poor Slade is waiting to get off and I am thinking its “wrapped not rapped”, doofus. I compose myself and read on, confident that it’s just one error.  This time Slade and Alan have changed things around (I love it when the boys are flexible) and Slade is making Alan moan, his nose buried in Alan’s course hair and noooooooooooo! A homonym pops up (yes, pops up) and stops the scene cold.  I don’t know where that weave has been, but I am sure Slade’s nose is not off attending any educational institute of higher learning.  I shudder and shake my head.  I eye *snort* my Kindle with dread.  Do I dare try again with this story?  One more thyme.   Our boyish babes are back on bed.  Alan is scoping out all the toys that Slade has laid out for their enjoyment. Alan tells him that he appreciates Slade’s thoroughness as well as variety and Slade replies “Honey, I love it when you complement me.” and I am done. Complement for compliment? Finished. Finito!  Another story done in by homonyms gone bad. (Names changed to protect the author)

So why is it that homonyms are running wyld through the fields of fiction?  I suspect some of the blame can be laid at Spell Check’s door.  So many people these days are dependent upon Spell Check for correcting their documents that actual proofreading has fallen by the wayside.  A machine, no matter how wonderful, can’t catch a word spelled correctly but used incorrectly.  Further complicating things is dyslexia.  Those of us who are dyslexic in any manner are aware that there are certain words that we have problems with and homonyms are the land mines of language. In addition to spell check, a good proof reader (hard to find) and a great editor (harder to find) are necessary.  And even then homonyms manage to slip through like a liberal does (that was intentional, people) of Astroglide!  Did you catch that one?  Here is a wonderful article from The Blood Red Pencil, a favorite blog of mine.  The blog is Cues from the Coach: Avoiding Homonym Headaches.  There is also a

list of typical homonyms which comes in handy at writing time.

I made a short list of homonyms that bug the hell out of me. They include my personal favorite – marine corpse.  Think about it.  Marine Corpse?  When did the Marines stoop to zombies to fill their ranks?  Are the Marine now looking for a few good zombies?

rein (horse tackle) vs. reign (political rule)
waste (exhaust) vs. waist (center of body)
there (place) vs. their (ownership)
coarse (rough) vs. course (direction)
than (comparison) vs. then (sequence)
it’s (it is) vs. its (ownership)

I am sure you can come up with more.  Unfortunately, it’s easy.  Just pick up a book, blog or magazine.  So let’s get the word out, people!  No more homonyms!  We’re madder than hell and won’t take it any more!  Proof readers unite!  Let’s all rise to the occasion and make our fiction a homonym free zone.  Let Alan and Slade romp free of false meanings! Let our balled bare bears frolic naked in the woods, content in safe word usage.  The world will thank us! Or at the very least, give us a M & M, make it green.

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.


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