Finger sandwiches and baby oil – the strangeness of the English language

sandwiches that look like fingersThe English language is a strange affair at times. Meaning is usually gathered from the words we use in the literal sense; the words and the order they are placed in a sentence tell you what the sentence as a whole means. But we don’t talk and write literally, neither do we hear or read, and consequently understand, literally.

I take it you are catching my drift so far? (I’m not really taking anything or expecting you to catch a drift, but I presume you know what I mean.)  Continue reading

Oronyms: Egg Samples to Help you Real Eyes the Meaning of the Word

Fork handlesHere’s a fun one. While researching the meanings of homophones, homonyms, homographs and such, I came across the word oronym.

Until I discovered it I had no idea there was such a name for a concept I was more than familiar with. Given the way the English language is structured and spoken, it should have come as no surprise.

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Homophones: Sound-Alike Words

typewriter_jam

Homophones are words that sound alike but don’t necessarily have similar meanings; they could have totally different definitions.

However, there are some that not only sound alike but also have similar meanings. That’s what I want to tackle here.

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The Meanings of Words – Synecdoche

SynecdocheSynecdoche. What a wonderful word!

Someone mentioned the film, ‘Synecdoche, New York’ to me the other day. I’d never heard of it. I’d never heard the word synecdoche either so (as it was such a tantalising word) I decided to look it up – of course.

That’s what we writers and readers do because we want to extend our repertoire of words and understanding.

The best definition I found was on Wikipedia.

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Homophone to Homonym : Dessert, Desert, Desert

Desert DessertThe English language is a minefield where spelling and pronunciation are concerned. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most difficult languages to learn.

We have words that are spelt the same or pronounced the same but have different meanings (homonym) and words that are spelt differently but pronounced the same and have different meanings (homophone).

Just to recap here:

Homonym = Two or more words spelt the same or pronounced the same but having different meanings.

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Nuts and Allergies

people talking about nutsDo you have nuts?

I saw this sign outside a restaurant recently:

Please advise us if you have nuts and other allergies”.

At first glance they’re talking about two distinctly separate subjects: nuts and allergies. As if they’re expecting you to take the nuts with you to the restaurant and tell them you’ve got them.

Are you allergic to anything?

I suppose it is obvious that this sign should have read: Continue reading

Possessive Apostrophe

An apostrophe used to show possession of something to someone can be a complicated thing. Do not confuse a possessive apostrophe with one used for a contraction of two words.

For clarity you should always consult a good style guide, such as New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide or The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.

If you are submitting work to a publisher it is advisable to ask for their own house style as some of the examples in this article may differ from one publisher to another.

Show possession to one person or thing (singular noun)

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What Would You Of Done?

What would you of done?

In England, particularly, the word have is often pronounced to sound like of, as in, “What would you of done?” or “I could of done something about it”. This is also how people will write it!

Actually, in that very English of ways, what people are really saying is, “I could ‘av done something about it”. They’ve dropped the h in have and it sounds like of.

It doesn’t take much investigating to reveal that of is the wrong word to be using given the context demonstrated above.

The dictionary definition of the word of is as follows:  Continue reading