Welcome to Fort Wayne; a website dedicated to the intricacies of the English language that you may miss if you don’t take the time to think about them.
We use words all the time but rarely stop to appreciate how wonderful, colourful, and complicated (and, for those learning it, frustrating at times) the English language can be.
You’ll find our first post about homophones, inspired by the name of this site – but you’ll have to take a look to find out more about that.
Enjoy delving deeper into our marvellous language, and get in touch if you have any topics you think we should cover.
Homophones and Homographs – Complicating English
“They’re going there for their honeymoon.”
Do you notice anything special about this sentence? If not, try reading it out loud. Got it?
It contains an example of a group of homophones – words which sound the same but are not always spelled the same. In fact, their/there/they’re, along with your/you’re and its/it’s, are some of the most commonly confused words in the language today. You only have to take a quick look at social media to see that!
Here are some more examples (and you can click here for a much longer list):
Some people may not think twice about the distinction between these words, but others are left tearing their hair (not hare!) out and wondering why our language has to have so many words that look different but sound the same.
If you’re particularly observant you may have noticed that the name of this site is made up of homophones – Fort (fought) Wayne (wane). And even two of the three numbers in the URL are homophones – two (to/too) and one (won). They’re everywhere once you (ewe) start looking!
Homophones are a good basis for puns and jokes, too. The dual meaning of a spoken word is an easy way to catch people out. For example:
Q: What’s black and white and red all over?
A: A newspaper.
Q: Why did the bicycle stop?
A: Because it was two-tired.
So what’s a homograph?
To complicate things further, there’s another category of word when we have the same spelling with a different meaning, and often different pronunciation too. These are called homographs. Homophones and homographs come under the umbrella term of homonym.
Some examples of homographs are:
- bat (a nocturnal animal/a piece of sporting equipment)
- bow (a knot you tie in a shoelace/a weapon/the front of a ship/to bend at the waist)
- close (nearby/to shut)
- entrance (the way in/to delight)
- fine (OK/a penalty)
- lighter (more light/used to create a flame)
- minute (tiny/60 seconds)
- number (a numerical value/more numb)
- park (a green space/to stop a car in a space)
- row (to argue/a line/to propel a boat)
- sewer (a drain/a person who sews)
- wave (to move a hand to greet/sea water coming to shore)
Where the words have a different pronunciation, you have to rely on the context to know how to say the word. See if you can read these sentences correctly first time:
The dustman’s cart was full so he had to refuse more refuse.
She wound a bandage tight around her wound.
I couldn’t wind my kite string because the wind was so strong.
Do you think you’ve got it?
To sum up:
- Homonyms can be homophones or homographs
- Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but not necessarily spelled the same
- Homographs are words that are spelled the same but not necessarily pronounced the same
Now… let’s have some fun with homonym-based jokes in the comments!