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HOMONYM

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HOMONYM

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Mar 10, 2005 12:39 am

• homonym •

Pronunciation: hah-mê-nim • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A word with the same sound as another word, as pear, pare and pair, regardless of how they are spelled; a homophone.

Notes: Today's word refers to a lexical situation that is the basis of many jokes, especially puns like those in our Punny Pages and ambiguous newspaper headlines. In the headlines, "Iraqi Head Seeks Arms," we have two homonyms that are spelled identically. The man who bought his boys a ranch and called it the Focus Ranch because it was where the sons raise meat (sun's rays meet), used three homonyms spelled differently. The noun is homonymy and the adjectives are homonymic [hah-mê-nim-ik] or homonymous [hê-mah-nê-mês]—your choice.

In Play: Situations arise when you can use this good word itself: "Well, if he didn't say he was getting married, he used a homonym." But it is more enjoyable to think of funny ways to use homonyms, such as these real headlines: "Soviet Virgin Lands Short of Goal Again" and "British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands." Here each of the words, lands, left, and waffles, refer to two homonyms. (During the Soviet period, the Russians developed virgin lands for farming in Kazakhstan and elsewhere.)

Word History: Today's good word comes from a Latin borrowing of Greek homonymon, the neuter of homonymos "homonymous". The Greek word is a combination of homos "same" + onyma "name". The Greek word for "same" comes from a PIE ancestor, *sem-/*som- "together, as one", with that ablaut vowel, sometimes [o], sometimes [e]. It is the same stem that made it to English as same. In Russian it emerged as sam "self", found in words like samovar "self-boiler" from sam + var(it') "to boil". With a suffix –l, it devolved into Latin simul "at the same time", which we see in our borrowing simultaneous. We aren't quite sure why some word-initial Ss became [h] in Greek, but some did.
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Postby Stargzer » Thu Mar 10, 2005 11:58 am

I've always wondered about homonyms, and therefore puns, in foreign languages. Pawing through my Cassell's French Dictionary I find:

  • verre / glass
  • vers / verse
  • vers / towards
  • vert(e) / green


I'm sure there are others, but it's been 36 years since my three years of high school French, so I've forgotten more than I ever knew.
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Postby anders » Thu Mar 10, 2005 1:47 pm

In Chinese, there are 107 words pronounced yi. Imagine the possibilities for puns and misunderstandings!

Even if you restrict homonymity to words having the same tone, there are 13 fairly common words yi1 in the first tone.

Do you wonder how they cope? Well, in the first place, the Chinese language presupposes intelligent listeners. Like, if you say in English "My left hand", there will be few occasions when a listener thinks that you have mislaid a hand. In the second place, the majority of Chinese monosyllables are not used alone in speech. (Writing is no problem; most of them are written differently.) Yi1 means a medical doctor, but you always say yi1sheng1, and there is only one such two-character word.
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Postby KatyBr » Thu Mar 10, 2005 2:35 pm

Stargzer wrote::

  • verre / glass
  • vers / verse
  • vers / towards
  • vert(e) / green


I remember in the First year Latin I had in High School, the school's brainiest senior, (I was a sophomore) confided in me that Latin was tough. I wondered at this, because I found it so easy, the words were so close to English it seemed odd that anyone couldn't see it. I noticed on my new towel's list of fiber used in construction was isted as 100% cotton and then, helpfully translated 'coton'...
This, oc was before I found out abou the false friends

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Postby Stargzer » Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:47 pm

KatyBr wrote: . . .I remember in the First year Latin I had in High School, the school's brainiest senior, (I was a sophomore) confided in me that Latin was tough. I wondered at this, because I found it so easy, the words were so close to English it seemed odd that anyone couldn't see it.


Yes, they told me Latin would help me with my English but I found it to be the other way around.

I noticed on my new towel's list of fiber used in construction was isted as 100% cotton and then, helpfully translated 'coton'... . . .


I guess we have NAFTA and our Northern Neighbors to thank for that . . .
Regards//Larry

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Postby Spiff » Wed Mar 16, 2005 4:21 am

Stargzer wrote:
  • verre / glass
  • vers / verse
  • vers / towards
  • vert(e) / green



Not to forget: ver / worm.

(un ver vert dans un verre vert :) )
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