It’s time for some more fun with homonyms. English has many pairs of words with different spellings, different meanings, but the same pronunciation.
For example, I came across a comment on regifting. The writer said the practice had a bad wrap. Now, if you order ingredients rolled in a tortilla and they’re stale or otherwise no good, you have gotten a bad wrap. Or if you have a piece of clothing called a wrap and it’s torn or stained, that’s a bad wrap. What does that have to do with regifting?
On the other hand, a criminal has a rap sheet. If some of the charges are somehow phony, then he has a bad rap, or maybe a bum rap. In any case, he has a bad reputation, so you might see the phrase “bad rep.” Either of those phrases might describe a socially questionable practice.
Whoever writes “bad wrap” in that context deserves a bad rep as a writer. And it’s not a bad rap.
Knew vs new
It’s not the only incorrect choice that uses a word with an extra letter. In my local newspaper, someone wrote, “I’m not completely knew to Greensboro, where I have lived for three years.” I wonder if the writer saw the sentence in print and thought, “I knew I should have written new.”
Queue vs cue
And I recently greatly enjoyed a choral piece on YouTube sung by twelve solo voices. Someone else loved it, too, and commented, “Love how each member just waits for their queue then graciously blends into what is an astonishing and brilliant harmony.”
It’s not that the singers were waiting in line, which is what queue means. They would hear another singer sing a cue that let them know it was time for their next entrance.
Bazaar vs bizarre
Speaking of YouTube, I notice another video titled “100+ bazaar Victorian photos.” I have long noticed that many mistakes with homonyms result from using the more familiar of a pair of words. In this case, though neither “bazaar” (an enclosed marketplace in a Middle Eastern country) nor “bizarre” (strange or unusual) are especially common. Do you suppose there’s another video about shopping in a Persian bizarre?
Peak, peek, pique
“See our Facebook page for a sneak peak.” In this case, the writer didn’t make the wrong choice from a pear pair of words. Peak, peek, and pique all have the same pronunciation. A quick glance at something is a peek.
The writer of a devotional I read gave me a twofer: “Why do some people fair better” and “God will not give you more than you can bare.”
Fair vs unfair? Or fair as in a trade show with entertainment? The correct word here is “fare,” which means to get along or succeed.
And “bare” means to expose. It is socially unacceptable for us to bare ourselves in public, although we certainly can’t bare any more than everything we have. “Bear,” on the other hand, means more than a large and surly predator. It also means to carry a burden.
Most misused pears result from carelessness, not incompetence. I know very well how easy it is for my brain to think one thing and my fingers to do something else—and how hard it can be to notice I’ve done it.
The last entry in this post isn’t exactly a misused pear. It’s not a mistake with homonyms. I include it because I find it both funny and outrageous. It comes from the top entry in a Google search for the history of solar energy!
For instance, around. 214-212 B.C. historians hypnotize that Archimedes’ a great Greek inventor, was able to apply solar energy by creating heat rays using multiple mirrors to concentrate sunlight.
How could anyone use hypnotize instead of hypothesize if they’re thinking? And how could any self-respecting editor not notice such a howler? The whole page was filled with similar stupidity. I am guessing that it will not remain at the top of Google search results for long. At least, no one who knows much about solar energy will use it as a source or link to it!