Archive for the ‘Homophony’ Category

Which witch?

July 9, 2015

Today’s Bizarro:

Two phonological issues here: the initial consonants in witch and which, which are identical for the bulk of current English speakers (as a voiced approximant [w]), but are distinguished (as voiced [w] vs. the corresponding voiceless [ʍ]) for some; and the prosody associated with the questions

(a) Witch one stole your broom?  VS.  (b) Which one stole your broom?

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Maiden near heroine epidemic

June 5, 2015

Passed on by Michael Palmer, this front page (of the Observer News Enterprise in Newton NC) posted by Michael Weinheimer on the Errorist Movement site:

Michael Pamer commented wryly:

I, for one, welcome an epidemic of heroines: one can never have too many heroines (or heroes, for that matter). I do feel, however, that it is no business of the public’s whether the person celebrating the adopt-a-cop program is a maiden or otherwise

This is not the only news story reporting the spread of heroin use, especially in rural places, as a heroine epidemic (and there’s a good reason for the spelling error). Maiden, however, is a place name.

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Lexeme confusion

January 5, 2015

Some time ago, John Wells reported on Facebook:

Friday’s London Evening Standard, reporting on the inquest into a fatal collision between a bus and a cyclist: “[The] bus driver … told police ‘As he started to turn, the bike slipped from under him. I broke … and he went under. I could feel him. I broke and put the handbrake on…'”.

There’s a confusion here between the lexemes BRAKE and BREAK, which are homophonous in their BSE/PRS forms. But not in their PST forms: BRAKE with regular PST braked, BREAK with ablaut PST broke.

The homophony leads to spelling confusions, usually with the much more common verb (break) prevailing over the less common (brake). In the Evening Standard quote, this confusion extends to the morphology, with the PST of break prevailing over the PST of brake (in both speech and writing).

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