Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writing for Grammar: The Secrets of Nyms

Most people are familiar with some of the nyms:

  • synonyms - words that have similar meanings like sniff and inhale (but why isn’t there a synonym for the word synonym?)
  • antonyms with opposite meanings like profit and loss
  • homonyms - words that have the same sound and often the same spelling but differ in meaning, such as bank (embankment) and bank (place where money is kept).

But there are also heteronyms, capitonyms, and contranyms.

A heteronym (HET-uhr-uh-nim) is a word that has the same spelling as another word but with a different pronunciation and meaning. In the following poem, each end-word is heteronymic:

Listen, readers, toward me bow.
Be friendly; do not draw the bow.
Please don't try to start a row.
Sit peacefully, all in a row.
Don't act like a big, fat sow.
Do not the seeds of discord sow.

In a pure heteronymic pair, the two words must be etymologically unrelated, as in bass, buffet, deserts, dove, entrance, lead, moped, unionized, wind, and wound.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.

more nyms next time...

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