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Have you ever considered how strange the English language is? It’s enough to give you a headache.

  • We can bow to the Queen who is sitting at the bow of the boat while presenting a gift to her tied with a big yellow bow.
  • And while we’re at sea with the Queen, we can see as far as the eye can see.
  • The lass at the fair, selling two tickets at a fair price, is fair of face too.
  • The down on a chick, sitting down at the entrance to the yard, entrances us with its softness.
  • If we hire that person with the MBA we’ll have to give him a higher salary.
  • The pint of ale he drank made him ail.
  • I’ll walk down the wedding aisle with my daughter on the isle of Bermuda.
  • My auntie upped the ante so high I couldn’t play anymore.
  • That odd star pattern really awed me.

All these lovely sentences are courtesy of homonyms and its subcategories of homophones, heteronyms, and homographs,—English’s way of saying, “It’s getting confusing.”

So, just what are these H words that make English so baffling and fun?

Homonyms are two or more words that share the same spelling, or the same pronunciation, or both, but have different meanings.

Homophones are words that sound alike and have different meanings. Some examples are aloud and allowed, fair and fare, loot and lute, maid and made, write and right.

Heteronyms are words that have the same spelling as another word but with a different pronunciation and meaning, such as: lead (the mineral) and lead (to guide), does (the verb) and does (two doe), wound (an injury) and wound (to wrap), produce (the verb) and produce (what you get from a farm), desert (to abandon) and desert (arid region) tear (to rip) and tear (cry), minute ( 60 seconds) and minute (tiny), moped (sad) and moped (a motorcycle).

Homographs are homonyms that share the same spelling, but not the same meanings. You can park the car in the park, rock the baby while listening to rock music, watch the ocean wave wave at you, and have a row with your canoe mate as you row down the river.

And if all that isn’t confusing enough consider this:

  • We drive on a parkway and park on a driveway.
  • We ship by truck and send cargo by ship.
  • Your house can burn up as it burns down.
  • You fill in a form by filling it out.
  • An alarm goes off by going on.
  • And a slim chance and a fat chance are the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.

If you can keep all that straight without a dance card, I’m impressed, because just writing this blog confused the heck out of me. I’ll think I’ll desert this topic now and go get some dessert to console me while I put my feet up on the console.

Do you have a favorite homonym?

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