Thursday, 21 April 2011

i is a homophone

 I is a homophone

Now you do a double take and raise brow at me...did I just use I with is...and am I politically incorrect to boot?

Now, now, stay calm!  I is in it has a counterpart in the world, pronounced the same but with different spelling and meaning... get it?


So yes, topic of choice today is homonyms - the umbrella term for homonyms and homographs

So to recap: 

·         a homonym is a word that sounds the same a another word, but the spelling and meaning is different.

·         A homograph is a word with identical spelling; but the meaning and pronunciation is different.   

And here many people fall off the bus...even though they were taught what these two little things were at elementary school.

 Common mistakes are made with principle/principal; your/you’re/yore; their/there; wait weight; oh, the list is quite long!
My specific pet peeve is when people cannot tell the difference between your and you’re – the one is a contraction of a pronoun and a verb the other is a second person possessive adjective, indicating ownership!  (I thought everyone knew that!)
Another hot tip: remember principal/priciple like this: our pal the principal. this refers to that guy that sits in the office making hsort work of naughty children.  Principle then obviously has adiffferent meaning...otherwishe it would not be a homophone! 

 I wish people would just learn the differences!  Do not write a word phonetically – even English requires some skill, some ability to memorise basic skills, I mean if you can do math, you can remember a few silly spelling and grammar rules, right?

After Easter I will elaborate a little more on my pet peeves regarding common language errors.

Cheerio old chap! Till next time.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ah, my fiendish friend...

As a child you expect teachers to know everything.  But believe me they do not.

In 6th grade I had to do a book report and we were free to choose the book we reported on.  I just finished reading “Bloodsucking Fiends” by Christopher Moore.   I enjoyed the book immensely, as it had a good dose of wit and comedy and the heroine was not to grotesque despite being a bloodsucking fiend. 

Now we all know the word fiend:  if you don’t, see the below extract from the Merriam Webster online dictionary.

fiend [fiːnd]


1. an evil spirit; demon; devil

2. a person who is extremely wicked, esp in being very cruel or brutal

3. Informal

a. a person who is intensely interested in or fond of something a fresh-air fiend he is a fiend for cards

b. an addict a drug fiend

4. (Informal) a mischievous or spiteful person, esp a child

Now I did a good job summarising the book in 200 words, and remember the pride I felt when I handed it in.

 I also recall the day I got it back and I saw the small red circle in the book title, the small arrow under the word “fiend” and a small red ‘r’ above it.  My dear Mrs Thomas, my sixth grade English teacher (and she was a mother tongue English speaker to boot) had subtracted one mark for a spelling error.

“Miss, the book is called blood sucking fiends” I said, when I lodged my appeal for my mark to be given to me.  I stressed the word “fiends” for extra attention and felt my hopes turn into dejection as I saw the blank look I her eyes.  “It can’t be,” she said ‘Just accept that you made a mistake and don’t make a scene now.” I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked, utterly and totally astonished at her lack of understanding.  I was a straight A student.  I did not make ‘mistakes’ like this. 

Unfortunately I had already returned the book to the library and as the library was in a town a good 60 kilometres away from where I lived, (farm girl) I had to wait a week before I could go back and find the book again. Luckily it was not out, so I did a little victory dance and planned my victory in class the next day. 

My teacher was speechless when I stood before her desk the very next morning, my book report in one hand and the book in the other.  ‘See, Miss? The book is called “Blood sucking fiends” not friends.”  I tried hard not to sound imperious, but failed miserably in that attempt.  My teacher at least had the grace to blush.

Faced with evidence such as this she had no choice but to concede the point and change my mark from 90% to 100% and I beamed for a week.   

And not because I got full marks, but because I was right and my teacher was wrong.

 I took a fiendish pleasure in my superior knowledge.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mind your language!

No, I am not admonishing those individuals who choose to use ‘colourful’ language!  I am referring to the terrible quality of most people’s written English skills. And please do not think I am an expert on the Subject of English, I am merely a concerned speaker, a girl in love with the language, and then I am a second language speaker to boot. 

You see, I love reading and writing and have been reading avidly since age eight.  I never once wondered why I was so adept at language, since my mother told my quite simply: ‘The more you read, the better your understanding of the written word will become.’
Thus I read, and read and read, eating 500 page books for breakfast and reading Shakespeare and the Encyclopaedia Britannica for fun. (Please note: I was not a freakish pedant, who thumbed my nose at television - there was just not that much variety in the shows that was on in my youth and we were only allowed an hour’s telly in the afternoons anyway – the rest of the time we were supposed to be playing outside (or reading.) 

I only started learning English properly at school – I had a rudimentary knowledge of the language before that, but at that stage I spoke Afrikaans and Xhosa mostly and knew only certain words in English.  I remember in third grade our teacher did a ‘magic spell’ and turned us into English kids – for the whole lesson we were only allowed to speak English and I was on an advanced reading level and the teacher would let me read to the class! In later years I would take a bilingualism exam and I scored an A-average.  This was all just from reading constantly. 

And no, reading cartoon, comic strips and the funnies in the paper does not count!  They might teach you a play on words (known as a pun), but it will teach you little else of correct language use.  Grammar and spelling are not rules of language, but the core structure.   

Where you place punctuation can change the meaning of a sentence, Capital letters denote, respect for titles, names and pronouns, also it signifies the start of a new sentence, just like a full stop denotes the end of a specific thought or sentence.  How would you know if someone is asking a question or expressing something passionately if not for the question mark or exclamation mark? And the humble comma: delimiting a list, giving you a breather-literally- while rambling through all your mom’s groceries.  Do they not teach these straightforward things in class anymore?

How about spelling rules, like “i” before “e” except after “c”? The difference between they’re and their; he’s and his; were, where and we’re.  The proper use of contraction, proper get the point?

I write stories myself, and where I write accurately when I write with a pen on paper, but I tend to make many mistakes on the computer –because my hand –eye coordination is as bad as my spelling and vocabulary is good.  I make many typing mistakes and I am not saying that I am impervious to linguistic errors: only that it pays to edit your work, to check, to change words used repeatedly (ah, for a good thesaurus!), to run a spell check and if you feel uncertain about ANYTHING, Google it, or ask someone who has a better grasp of the language. 
Just take pride in what you write, in the language you write in and please...mind your language!

Here are two very handy links – theses websites will clarify any spelling or grammar related issues you might have.