Alarmed Doors

alarmed doorThe door in the photograph looked quite calm to me and not at all alarmed.

Is there another way of wording this statement? Probably. But it would probably be a wordier statement to get the same message across.

Do doors have emotions?

The long and short of it is that we know what this sign means. The door pictured here cannot experience emotion, hence it cannot feel alarmed. We, the readers, know this and so we apply the meaning that makes most sense without really thinking about it.

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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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Plane English or speaking plainly? Use your own words

fixedwing

Language is what we rely on to understand something we are being told. We expect to know what it means. The only way we can do that is if the giver of the information delivers it clearly.

Your choice of words, the sequence you put them in and the structure of your sentences will set the feel and flavour of your writing as well as making it legible and intelligible.

Making ourselves understood

Some time ago I was listening to the radio and an official from the Coastguard Service was talking about deploying their ‘fixed-wing assets’. It took me a few seconds to realise she meant aircraft.

Specialist language is fine when you are talking to colleagues in your own profession, or when writing for a book – or a magazine – with a specific area of interest, but a novel needs to be more far-reaching than that. As writers we want to reach the widest audience possible.

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They’re There Their

This is one you often see written incorrectly (usually it’s there and their that are confused). All three words sound just the same – a homophone.

However, each one has a very distinct meaning. When in doubt consult your dictionary or style book.

A good proofreader will pick up mistakes such as these but it’s best to get it right in the first place.

To put it simply: Continue reading

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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