Zeugma: telling stories and jokes

You’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve strayed off the topic of the English language as we introduce the topic of zeugma (zyoog-ma). Actually, the term comes from the Greek for “yoking” or “bonding”, and it refers to a literary device whereby a single word – usually a verb or adjective – applies to more than one noun, thereby joining together ideas that are logically and grammatically different.

Or, if you’d like a technical dictionary definition: “A construction in which one word or phrase is understood to fill a parallel syntactic role in two or more clauses or phrases“. Continue reading

Palindromes: Won’t I panic in a pit now?

Linguistically speaking, a palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backwards as it does forwards. You’re probably familiar with character-unit palindromes, where the individual letters are reversed, but there is also such a thing as word-unit palindromes, where the word order is reversed; and even line-level palindromes. More about those later.

Palindromes crop up in numbers, science and music, too, but since this is a site devoted to the English language, I’m not going to spend any more time talking about those.

Character-unit palindromes

Many of the words we use every day in English are palindromes. Civic, deed, level, madam, noon, peep, racecar, radar, refer and reviver are all examples.

You can only have so much fun with single words, though. More popular among palindrome lovers (or ‘elihphiles’, as they like to call themselves, although it doesn’t work so well as a plural) are full sentences where the letters can be reversed to spell the same thing. Continue reading

What’s what and when’s when

Contronyms: In Self-Opposition

You’re probably familiar with the terms ‘antonym’ (a word that means the opposite of another word, e.g. ‘hot’ and ‘cold’) and ‘synonym’ (a word that has a similar meaning to another, e.g. ‘philanthropic’ and ‘benevolent’); but how about the term ‘contronym’?

Also known as an auto-antonym, a contronym (or contranym) is a category of word with different meanings which, depending on the context, can seem contradictory. This makes contronyms a kind of homograph – words that are spelled the same but not necessarily pronounced the same, and have different meanings (if you haven’t read our full post about homophones and homographs, check it out here).
Example: An acquaintance of mine with a plumbing business in Plymouth was explaining to a customer how to ‘plumb-in a kitchen’.  The customer’s 12 year old son appeared 10 minutes later out of breath saying i have searched everywhere and there are no plumbs in the kitchen. Continue reading

Welcome to English


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.” Continue reading