Homonym Ho Hummin’ him

April 10, 2008 | By | 11 Replies More

Just a quick jot about one little thing that regularly bugs me on the net. Many people don’t know their homonyms. I don’t mean those who can’t think of them. I mean those who know them all by spelling, but not by meaning. And pick the one that looks fancier whether or not it is right.

Today specifically I’m bugged by misuse of sight, site, and cite.

  • Sight;  a view or target.
  • Site; a location (as in where to sit something, website).
  • Cite; to indicate or refer (related to the noun citation)

The your/you’re and its/it’s/it’s swaps also annoy. These are both cases of confusing a contraction with a possessive. Commonly misused.

  • You’re sure your eyes are working.
  •  It’s good that its eyes are working.

What’re your homonymical obsessions?


Category: Whimsy, Writing

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (11)

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  1. Ben says:

    And it annoy's me when people use capitol letters to sight there hyper lynx…

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan: The Apostrophe Protection Society is out there patrolling for apostrophe abuse. Lots of real life examples at this site. I know that you'll find these abuses to be distressing, so visit the site at your own risk. http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/examples.htm

  3. Dan Klarmann says:

    Erich, as apostrophe atrocities go, I can forgive adding one to all-cap signage words such as menus, dos, and vcrs (meenus and doss?). It's wrong, but it clarifies somewhat. And on acronyms, I've come to expect it. How are you supposed to pluralize acronyms that may well end in an ess?

    Here's a punctuation guide from CUNY Law

    And Wiki's guide to apostrophes.

  4. I just recently wrote a letter to Spiegel Online, because the author of the article wrote something like "Hugo' Vater." a) There are no possessive apostrophes in German and b) where's the "S"??? The online edition of this magazine shows linguistic flaws that are a shame for anybody who calls himself a journalist. No, actually they would reflect poorly on anybody past forth grade.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    This kind of reminds me of the old BBS days and the Biff and studleycaps styles for posting replies. For those that don't recall the computer BBS networks that predated the Web, http://www.textfiles.com tries to save a nice sampling of BBS lore taken from actual computer BBS systems.

    Biff ( usually written as B1FF) was a style that was all uppercase with intentional mispellings and numbers or symbols substituted for some letters. For example:

    H1!, M1 N@ME 1Z B1FF @N 1'M 0N3 K00L D00D!!!!!!!

    Studleycaps was the practice of alternating between upper and lowercase letters sometimes with misspellings:

    HeLlO BiFf, U gOt WaReZ?

    Sometimes you could see them combined:

    4GeT B1Ff, Th3 D00dZ A L@m3R!!

    This was sometimes combined with the short letter abbreviation common on cellphone text messages today.

    IdK, B1Ff G0T tHe L8tIsT w@r3Z, RoFlMaO!!!

    Fortunately, Biffs and studley-cappers were never taken seriously.

  6. Ok, I don't want to read poorly edited articles.

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    I edited a 24 page newsletter for a couple of years. Some authors handed in columns so correct that they rarely needed changes, and others were so obtuse and ungrammatical that I had to call and ask what they were trying to say as I was editing. This is among colij grajits!

    I still don't get why schools don't go ahead and teach shorthand, and how to use a stenography keyboard. Kids are essentially reinventing this set of wheels with the IM shortcuts. My usual rant includes making up the teaching time by dropping longhand from the required skill set for reasons that I won't repeat here.

  8. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Back in the 1980's I wrote a few articles for an obscure hobbyist magazine. I would do all the work of proofreading and editing over and over until an article was just right, then the typesetter for the magazine would completely mess it up. Since the text was submitted by modem, this always seemed strange to me.

    Now that I am older, and suffer from FFS (fat finger syndrome) I admit that I've become careless in my typing. I have gotten somewhat used to blogs that allow you to edit your submissions, because if I stop to fix too many errors my train of though gets derailed.

    By the way, I was one of those students back in the 1970's who developed my own personal shorthand. One of my highschool teachers insisted on checking the class notes of the students, so he required me to transcribe mine every night.

  9. Marlon says:

    I see except/accept misuse a lot, and more and more I am seeing then/than confusion. In a similar vein/vane/vain, I used to pass by a jewelry store every morning that spelled "jewelry" differently on each of four signs (jewelry, jewerly,jewelrey,jewlery).

  10. Dan Klarmann says:

    Don't get me started on editors! Back in the pre-internet days I would write occasional letters to the editor. Clear, concise, tight prose. They generally managed to render it unintelligible, and once actually reversed my original point!

    How about affect/effect and there/their/they're? I see these pretty regularly misused.

  11. Affylstone says:

    One thing that I see often in students' papers is a confusion of "affect" and "effect."

    Also, I see students using "i.e." and "e.g." interchangeably. Just for clarification, "i.e." is short for the Latin "id est," meaning "in other words" or "that is to say." However, "e.g." is short for the Latin "exempli gratia," meaning "for example." Errors such as these plague college term papers:

    There are many nations in the European Union, i.e. Germany.

    Communist Russia was ruled by a single authority, e.g. it was a dictatorship.

    Switch the two and the sentences would be correct.

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