Homonyms on the web

I’m not one of those curmudgeons who think young people can’t write because of texting, or the internet. Digital natives do a whole lot of writing, and many bloggers and commenters (in the better web sites) are fluent and thoughtful communicators.

However! There is a LOT of confusion around homonyms. I assume it’s because spell check programs don’t offer a correction when you write “She was given free reign.” After all, it’s spelled right. It’s just a total misunderstanding of the metaphor.

A little research shows that helpful grammarians have listed more than 300 commonly confused homonyms, so I won’t try to produce an exhaustive list. I’ll just talk about the more common ones that grate on me the worst. It will be therapeutic for me to get them off my chest.

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Versus vs. Verse

Here’s another example of the language changing due to ignorance, which is something that bothers me because I am one of Those People.

Before anybody jumps on that statement to point out that language is always changing and it’s pedantic and fruitless to try to stop it, I’d like to say that I do know this. However, I make a distinction between:

  • changes that occur because we need new meanings and new words to express stuff that humans need to express (good or at least acceptable changes),
  • changes that occur because people are ignorant and lazy and not lovers of words (bad changes that I can’t do anything about, but that I like to complain about).

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I want my K sound back

Whatever has happened to the K sound that belongs in all those words with two Cs? On TV I hear it all the time: “accessorize” pronounced “assessorize,” “accelerate” pronounced “asselerate,” and many more. What”s next? “Access” pronounced “assess?” Wait, isn”t that a word already?acela

This mindless mispronunciation occurs when two C”s are followed by an E.

To avoid making this mistake yourself, remember this general pronunciation rule in English: C is soft before an E or I, hard (like K) before other letters. Like this: cent, cinema (soft), cat, cot, cut (hard).

Having two Cs doesn’t change this rule. In “accelerate,” the first C is hard because it is not followed by one of the two magic vowels. The second C is followed by E, so it is soft. In fact, that”s why there are two Cs. What a compact, elegant way to generate two sounds from one letter.

OK, so its a bit tricky. But still, if you”re on TV you should try to pronounce things properly.
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