Quiet Desperation

Five-dollar words may not make cents


This column is overdue, so I am going to overdo it.

Are you stationary or stationery?

Recently when I erred, a reader corrected me: “You wrote ‘cue’ when you meant ‘queue.’”

My tale was between my legs.

Let’s go to Homophone City first. It’s write on the way.

Their, they’re, there.

So, sew. Sue, Sioux. Red, read. Stationary, stationery. To, too, two.

Homophones are two or more words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings and spellings.

There’s more.

Homographs are two or more words that have the same spelling but are not necessarily pronounced the same and have different meanings.

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

Am this putting a spell on you?

Examples of homophones: pray and prey.

Examples of homographs: lean and lean.

Examples of homonyms: bark and bark.

A twenty carat ring might be worth fifteen thousand dollars.

A twenty carrot ring might be worth considerably less.

“Less is more,” someone said.

If your name is Les, then what?

My dog’s name, Harry, is a homophone and a homograph. To “harry” means “to persistently carry out attacks on.”

If it’s scary enough, a roller coaster ride can be “harry” too.

Speaking of “it’s.” “It’s” and “its” are written wrong awl the thyme.

There’s “a lot” and there’s “allot,” but there’s no “alot.”

Gertrude Stein said, “There is no there there.”

“I saw the saw with my own eyes,” the sea captain said.

I have the toughest time distinguishing between complimentary and complementary.

“That’s a beautiful hat you’re wearing, Sonja,” is complimentary.

Red and green are complementary colors.

Learning how to read is one of the great adventures in life. And so is learning how to listen and understand that a “great adventure” is different than a “grate adventure.”

Some humorists rely on word confusion.

A conversation between Groucho and Chico (pronounced “Chick-o”) Marx was often a non-stop contest of mangled language at a dizzying speed.

There are so many wordplays in a Marx Brothers film, one after the other, I can’t assimilate them. Therefore, every time I watch “Duck Soup” it seems new to me.

“What about the taxes?”

“I’ve got an uncle who lives in Texas.”

“Gentlemen, Cicolini here may talk like an idiot and look like an idiot. But don’t let that fool you: He really is an idiot.”

If you know someone who appreciates homophones, homographs, and homonyms it can be tiring to be around them.

I know: I have to live with myself.

Just about everything is ripe for the word playground.

“Jose, can you see?”

Yes, some song lyrics are misunderstood.

“I can see clearly now, Lorraine is gone.”

“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquariums.”

A friend said her wedding “went off without a hitch.”

“Then you’re not married?” She didn’t get it.

My own marriage did go off without a hitch. When the justice of the peace asked, “Greg, do you take this woman to be your awfully wedding wife?” I said “Adieu,” and left.

Groucho quipped, “Love goes out the door when money comes innuendo.”

Dorothy Parker said, “And I’ll stay off Verlaine too; he was always chasing Rimbauds.”

But seriously.

As Alexander Woollcott remarked, “Nothing risqué, nothing gained.”

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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