Tag Archives: homophones

Nanowrimo-ing Monkey #3 – English!!!!!

Hidey-Ho Scribblers – J Monkeys here coming at you from the very end of day 16 of 2012 Nanowrimo.  Don’t know about Nano?  Click here.  Of the 60,000 words I want to write in November, I’ve got 22,000 done so far. 

But here’s the thing…I write in English and sometimes that pesky language trips me up.  For example, last week, I read the book Sanctus (click here for my review – well, really more of an endorsement) had plenty of characters to route for.  Or rout for.  Or as it turns out, root for. 

Ooooooooh – the English language can be a nightmare!  Family lore says that of the four languages my great-grandfather spoke fluently, English was the hardest one for him to master.  I can see why.  I’ve blogged before about how our fine language got this way (click here) but man, those homophones kill me! 

Sure, I’ve got my its/it’s down pat and my there/their/they’re and my to/too/two, but it’s these less frequently used homophones that get me every time.  Homophones, for those who don’t remember their 4th grade grammar lessons, are words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings.  Check out the bit in Wikipedia – I did not know that homophones which are spelled differently are actually called heterographs. 

Route (as it turns out) is a path for traveling, rout is an overwhelming defeat and root can either be the part of a plant that leaches nutrients from the ground or a way of cheering someone on.  Seriously?!  How can one word (root) have two so different meanings?  Well, let’s not forget about “cleave” which is both a homonym and an antonym with it’s two meanings: to cling and to split.  Evidently we can blame the Germans for that one – both words are from Old High German. 

I’ve written before about my trouble with peek, peak and pique.  And grill/grille.  Don’t think spell check or even grammar check are going to help you there.  I can’t tell you how often grammar check wants me to use the wrong ‘there.’  Frustrating!

These crazy words and their meanings are particularly hard for beginning readers.  I’ve got one living in my house and we’ve developed a particular cheer for those times when English makes no sense at all.  Ready?

Make fists with both hands, raise them above your head, look down toward the floor and shake those fists yelling through clenched teeth, “Ennnnngliiiissshhhhhhhh!” 

Yes, I stole this coping technique from my friends the Peacocks (and yes, I borrowed their colorful last name for my pirate in The Peacock’s Tale).  I’ve borrowed another great English coping mechanism from them, too.   Rating words on a scale from everyday to never-to-be-used.  But that’ll be the topic of next week’s blog.  Stay tuned!

Today’s secret: I have a bachelor’s degree in English – meaning I’ve studied it longer than many folks – and it still trips me up!

Today’s question: what words trip you up?

Spell check isn’t your friend

Hi!  I’m J Monkeys, crafter of fine stories for children.  OK, well that’s probably not true depending on your definition of ‘fine’, but it is true that I’m working on several fun reading adventures for kids.  My first novel, The Cordovan Vault, is available in print and ebook format (see the books page on this lovely blog for more info) and my first picture book for beginning readers, Dixie and Taco Go To Grandmother’s House, is available in print. (ditto, re info).  And there’s more of both on the way.  But today’s post isn’t supposed to be about selling my books, it’s a writing secret.

So, here’s a not-so-secret writing secret: spell check really isn’t your friend.  I know, we all feel that we can’t get along without it.  I certainly do – I’m a terrible speller, always have been.  My 6-year-old recently had a homework assignment where she had to come up with a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  For “T” she picked Tiffany.  Sadly, I had no idea how to spell it and her homework went back to school poorly spelled.  (Of course, I could have looked it up as I did for this post, but she’s in kindergarten so I didn’t get too worked up about it.)

Of course you should always spell check your work, but that isn’t enough.  You’ve got to have someone else proofread it.  Yes, I said “someone else”.  You know what your work is supposed to say, and the eye will see that, even if it isn’t what’s written on the page.  Evidently, I have trouble with homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and different meanings).  Spell check won’t help you there, nor if you write the wrong word but it’s spelled correctly.  Here are a few examples of how spell check left me high and dry.

In the limited first edition of The Cordovan Vault, I have characters who peak instead of peek.  The only reason they don’t pique is because it didn’t come to mind while I was writing.  (Seriously, what’s the deal with English that we need 3 homophones for peek?!)  There is a stainless steal kitchen counter that became a stainless steele counter in the second edition instead of a stainless steel counter.  In the unlikely event that I write a third edition, I’ll fix it there.  (Sometimes, you just have to let go and move on, people – see yesterday’s timely blog by Casey Wyatt on that topic.)

I recently read a book that troubled me.  I won’t tell you the title, but it was a good premise and plot.  It just had a lot of editorial problems.  It was wicked long, for one thing, but it held my interest and I ignored (or mocked to my friends) the problems for the most part.  About 20 pages before the end, though, I nearly threw in the towel.  Honestly, if I hadn’t invested two weeks reading this thing, I would have dropped it right there.  The problem: the suppository of knowledge.  Now I don’t know if this was supposed to be a repository of knowledge or perhaps a depository of knowledge, but I am positive that this knowledge wasn’t taken anally.

Today’s Scribe’s Secret Unlocked: Spell check is not a substitute for an editor/proofreader.  Find a friend and proof each other’s work if you can’t afford to hire someone.  Seriously.