Are you afraid of using the correct part of speech or the correct spelling or usage of a word? Even more frightening, does it make you shiver when intelligent people (like your superiors) misuse common words that were differentiated at least in the 8th grade?
With the advent of social networking, texting and IM’ing we commonly use acronym’s like LOL and TTYL; and take short-cuts by using words like thru instead of through, so it’s no wonder folks can’t remember how to spell correctly let alone use the correct homophone or homonym. As a reminder, homophones are those words that are pronounced the same way but differ in meaning or spelling. Homonyms may be two words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.
This article stemmed from my apprehension every time I attempt to say “yippee” via text or on Facebook and find myself contemplating whether it’s “Yay, Yeah, or Yea.” Maybe I should just use “yippee?” Anyway, because MY friends are smarter than anyone else’s, I enlisted them to set the records straight. It was unanimous; yippee should be communicated as Yay in the real world! It’s official. So, in that vein, I’m here to hopefully shed some light on the many misuses of our native tongue due to their homophonal qualities. I’d like to give thanks to my friend John for his insights and fodder.
I’ll start with ones that give me the most heartburn and work my way down to milder anxiety-laden words. I’ll start with a quip from Carter Nipper:
My hare is just like hers, accept hers is strait, and mine is curly. Its effecting hour relationship, to.
Not easy to read, is it? If you read this passage out loud, it makes perfect sense. How many mistakes do you see in these two short sentences? I count eight — hare (hair), accept (except), strait (straight), Its (It’s), effecting (affecting), hour (our), and to (too). Guess what: Microsoft Word did not find any errors! Be afraid — be very afraid. Homophones are everywhere!
Oh boy, does this one ever get people confused!
Accept means to receive, usually with the implication of voluntarily.
Except means a variance from a rule.
I accept gifts from anyone except my ex-wife.
This is another real bugaboo.
Affect means to have an influence on.
Effect is the result of the influence.
One effect of war is to affect the lives of civilians.
By, buy, bye, bi
Reminds me of a song by ‘N Sync.
By means near.
Buy means to purchase.
Bye means farewell and for some reason means one who draws no opponent yet advances to the next level in sports.
Bi means in two parts or two.
The basketball team had a first round bye in the tournament, so by the time we arrived at the tournament, I was not able to buy a ticket, but I was able to get one for the bi-annual scrimmage.
I always have to look this one up.
Capital means the top or most important of something. Also, the money to fund a certain operation. The city that is the seat of a government.
A capitol the building that is the seat of a government.
The columns on the Capitol Building have Corinthian capitals.
Complement is something that enhances or completes something else. Also used to indicate a group of people, especially a complete group.
A compliment is a statement of praise.
I complimented the way her necklace complemented her dress.
Oh, the pain, pain of it all.
It’s is a contraction of “it is.”
Its is the possessive form of “it.”
It’s a shame that its efforts failed.
Principals are CEOs of schools (I always remember it by the phrase, “the principal IS your pal”). The greater meaning is the best or highest of something.
Principles are moral codes that one lives by.
Honor is a principal principle of the military life.
Sight is the sense of vision. Also something observed using that sense.
A site is a location.
The construction site was a horrible sight.
Stationary means fixed or motionless.
Stationery is paper goods used to communicate in writing.
I wrote on stationery that was stationary on the desk.
This one bothers me more than most. That thumping noise is the sound of a book hitting the wall when I see this.
Than is part of a comparative phrase.
Then is an indication of a particular time period that is not now.
Things were different then — calmer than they are now.
Their, there, they’re
Their means belonging to them.
There is anywhere that is not here.
They’re is a contraction of “they are.”
They’re practicing their martial arts over there.
To, too, two
The bugaboo of so, so many.
To means toward.
Too means also or very.
Two means one plus one.
Getting from one to two is too much for some people.
Want, wont, won’t
These three are all pronounced differently but similarly.
Want is a desire or lack.
Wont means to be inclined to behave a certain way.
Won’t is a contraction of “will not.”
He won’t indulge his wont to want ice cream.
Who’s is a contraction of “who is.”
Whose is a possessive form of who.
Whose car is that and who’s the driver?
You’re is a contraction of “you are.”
Your means belonging to you.
You’re not sure what your words mean at this point.
So, all this is to say that people you know and love; and those whom you truly believe are well-educated, will misuse many of these words in emails, texts and on Facebook. Don’t be a hater and don’t feel it your place to correct them, just know that you know…and know that knowledge is power!
And finally, for my friend Sara who cannot stand when people misquote, misspell and misuse: the southern use of the contraction of “You all” is Y’all not Ya’ll! It drives her nuts…and she bites her tongue (sometimes)…and it makes me giggle!