Friday, July 18, 2008

Looking down a homonym

click photo to enlarge
Did you know that innuendo is the Italian word for suppository? Or that there are some that are wise and there are others that are otherwise? And maybe you've never considered that while two wrongs don't make a right, three rights do make a left?

A significant part of English humour is based on the peculiarities of our language. I was thinking about this the other day as, with a group of friends and relations, I looked down a well (see photo). It was the fashion a while ago for young people to use the phrase "well good" to describe something they particularly liked. To my older ears this is an awkward construct, but it came to mind when I was deciding a title for this image. But then I thought, no, the photograph's OK but it's not a "well good well shot"!

Then, with the word "well" in mind I got to thinking about homonyms and the like. And, after a little research I found that my understanding of what constitutes a homonym wasn't quite right. What's worse, after a lot of research I discovered that many are similarly confused, and that the internet can't be trusted to shine a light on the matter. So, in the interests of clarity here is what I discovered, courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary:

Homophones - different spelling, same pronunciation, different meaning (e.g. here, hear)
Homonyms - same spelling, same pronunciation, different meaning (e.g. well, well)
Heteronyms - same spelling, different pronunciation, different meaning (e.g. refuse, refuse)

Please try and remember this - there will be a written test next week :-)

photograph & text (c) Tony Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 42mm (84mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/10
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On