Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Time To Learn Your Homophones Is Past Due

Yes, I'm aware that the problem stated in Word Crimes is that people, when writing, use the wrong homophone. That is not our problem at hand today. Our problem is knowing what a homophone even is.

We have a private English education school in Provo, Utah called the Nomen Global Language Center. Their social-media blogger, Tim Torkildson, was allegedly fired recently for... blogging about homophones. As Torkildson tells it, his boss, Clarke Woodger (the owner of Nomen), told him upon termination, ""Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality." (Woodger, for his part, says it was more about Torlkildson "going off on tangents" in his blogs that could be considered offensive.)

First off, as we OUGHT to know, a homophone is two words that sound alike. But homophones... well, come to think of it, they're not our real problem here. Our real problem is knowing our prefixes and suffixes. A prefix is something that, when you put it at the beginning of a word, infuses that word with a meaning specific to that prefix. A suffix does the same thing at the end of the word. In this case, 'homo' is the prefix.

The problem seems to be that 'homo' is being thought of as a prefix meaning 'gay'. Not just in this case, but all over. People use 'homo' as an insult meaning 'gay'. That is not the meaning of 'homo'. 'Homo' means 'the same'. Nothing more. When you add it to a word, you are implying that the things that word covers are similar in some way. So:

*Homophone means words that sound the same but are spelled differently.
*Homograph is the inverse; it means words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and sometimes pronunciation as well (e.g. 'ball' could mean the ball you use in sports, or it could mean a fancy dance, or it could mean having a good time at that dance, or it could mean male testicles).
*Homosexual means preferring those of the same gender as you.
*Homogenous means things that are the same.
*Homocyclic means a closed ring of atoms of the same kind. Often this will be carbon atoms.
*Homogony is a botanical term meaning the pistils and stamens in a flower species are all the same length and in the same location.

Boy, look at those hot hot closed atom rings, folks.

Meanwhile, since we're here already, the suffix in homophone is 'phone'. As a suffix, it deals with sound, often words. When you see it ending a word, you can count on the word having something to do with sound. So:

*Homophone means words that sound the same but are spelled differently.
*A telephone is a device you can use to verbally communicate over long distances.
*A saxophone is a musical instrument. So is a xylophone. Or a sousaphone.
*A microphone is something you speak into. So is a megaphone. A headphone is something through which to hear that sound.
*Anglophone means someone who speak English. Francophone is the word for French speakers. Lusophone is for Portuguese. Hispanophone is for Spanish. Sinophone is for Chinese.

Got it? Homophone does not mean gay men making noises. I'm ashamed I even had to type that out.

1 comment:

Tim Torkildson said...

Thanks for you common-sense approach to this admittedly bizarre story. Tim Torkildson.