Homophones

Dear followers and reader,

With this page I start a new section, which already exists in Italian, and that I am going to call “Linguistic quickies.” As I said in the introduction, my aim is not to be the nerd that wants to teach everyone, which can be as well, but to try and solve problems and doubts that we all have, in our mother tongue or in a foreign one, and that I happen to have figured out already, nothing more.

The first quickie is about homophones in English. Why such a wide subject? Because yesterday I was translating a text and I had to think twice of what the author, non native, was trying to say, since he was misspelling several words due to homophony.

As we know, pronunciation in English is very hard, and there are no real rules about it. This is because vocalic or consonantic groups, or entire syllables can be written in the same way and pronounced completely different according to the word; in the same way, completely different writings can end up being prounced identically. In the first case, we talk about homographs, and we have the famous example of read /riːd/ (present), and read /red/ (past simple) or, my favourite one, because it is knotty, literally: bow /bəʊ/ (knot), and bow /baʊ/ (to bend your head). I am not going to go further into this subject today.

In the second case, the one that interests me today, we talk about homophones. There are plenty of them in the English language, and I doubt that any list can be complete, but I found some very good ones that I am going to link for you:

The first one is a very long, quite complete one,

The second one is useful because it is categorised according to different criteria, such as level of knowledge of English or kind of homophones, and it is quite easy to filter your search. It also includes a list of the most common homophones here.

The third one is from Wikipedia, it is quite complete as well, and it is my favourite because it is the only one that includes the best homophones ever, or a least it goes quite close to it: Knotty and naughty! The list talks about knot and naught, but it is good enough, because the pronunciation, for once, is the same when we add the y, at least according to the American pronunciation.

The incredible presence of homophones and homographs in English makes this language wonderful for puns, and it is great in advertising as well. One of my favourite examples is the watch shop in London called Hour Passion, playing with the homophony between hour /aʊər/ (part of the day), and our /aʊər/ (belonging to us.)

All my phonetic transcriptions have been taken from the Cambridge dictionary, that you can find here; I chose the British one, and here I normally show the British pronunciation. I hope you enjoyed this quickie as much as I did!

Until next, and… keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

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