Magazine article Communication World

Wee Witch Was 'Very Precautious'; We Have No Problem with That. (Wood on Words)

Magazine article Communication World

Wee Witch Was 'Very Precautious'; We Have No Problem with That. (Wood on Words)

Article excerpt

Those of us in the hardscribble life of word mongering learn early on that homophones lead the list of linguistic land mines.

One can find a coat hanger in an airport hangar; one may learn that a school principal is a woman of principle; how to pare a pair of Bartlett pears; that the sun/son also rises...the latter often more laggardly; and that verb chase may mean pursue or to ornament metal while noun chase refers to the bore of a cannon, a trench or perhaps "a rectangular steel or iron frame in which letterpress matter is locked (as for printing)" (Merriam-Webster's 10th Collegiate Dictionary).

CW thanks Dr. Bill Penn, retired UProf who writes frequently from his hangout in Davis, Calif., for this homophonic sighting: "The decline of human capital and the aging of populations cannot auger well for economies that depend on creativity for their advancement." Printed in The American Spectator (Sept./Oct. 2001), the sentence displays the misuse of auger (a tool for boring holes) for augur (to foretell or prophesy). It also suggests to this workstation that "the aging of populations" may indeed augur well for the craft of proof-reading; Bill Penn writes from the other side of 80.

* One who speaks from the other side of age 6 was asked by a TV reporter post-Halloween whether she and her friends had been extra careful in their peregrinations on the 31st. "Oh, yes," said the child. "We were very precautious." What a lovely new word from the precocious one. It called to mind a similar neologism uttered by a colleague who wanted to emphasize the genuineness of his words: "Alden, I am really sincerious about this."

* An outfit called John Christian Designers & Craftsmen takes a one-column ad up front in The Wall Street Journal to tout a ring bearing "Your anniversary date in roman numerals." The art showed month, day, and year: XII XI MCMXCVIII. And your translation will show what? (Did you sleep away your Roman Empire 101 semester? Help appears at the end of this screed.)

A second WSJ ad presented this en-knee-gmatic sentence: "The Patented Cho-Pat Knee Strap has helped over one million people enjoy a better quality of life from knee pain. Why not you?" Well, I might log on if there were a free in there between life and from.

* On New Year's Day, 2002, Simon & Schuster will publish The Wall Street Journal Guide to Business Style and Usage. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.