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paronomasia

Printable Version
Pronunciation: pæ-rê-nê-may-zhê, -z(h)ee-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Word play based on sound similarities, punning.

Notes: Paronomasia usually means "pun", but it actually covers other forms of wordplay, too. Using two different words in the same phrase also counts as paronomasia, e.g. 'pour out corruption from every pore'. Careful that you do not substitute A for the first O in this word: paranomasia. The adjective for this word is paronomastic or, if you need an extra syllable, paronomastical. However, for the adverb you must include the meaningless suffix -al: paronomastically.

In Play: A person who has just literally tied up someone else and who answers the telephone for that person and tells the caller, "He's all tied up right now," commits paronomasia. The names of the players in Dr. Goodword's examples are paronomastic: Maude Lynn Dresser, Amanda Lynn Player, Susan Liddy-Gates. My all-time favorite paronomasia involves a father who bought a cattle ranch for his sons, naming it the "Focus Ranch" because it was where the sons raise meat (sun's rays meet).

Word History: Today's Good Word comes directly from speratus "hoped for", the past participle of Latin sperare "to hope", based on spes, speres (plural) "hope". We see it again in the derivation desperare "to be hopeless, to despair", which was reduced to despair in Old French, whence the English borrowing. We see this same root in prosper, from Old Latin pro spere "according to one's hope". English inherited the PIE root directly through its German ancestors as sped "abundance; to prosper" as in the current Godspeed "farewell". This word originally was a phrase, God speed you "God prosper you, make you succeed". In Old English the word sped was already beginning to mean "succeed", and from there it was but a hop, skip, and jump to "quick" and the current spelling speed. (Today's Good if moribund Word comes from the mysterious master of arcane words, Grogie, in the Alpha Agora.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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