Friday, March 28, 2008

Why "A" Does NOT Equal "B"

A lot of people I know say that the complaint I'm about to present is little more than "nit-picking". Well, bring out your nits! I'm in a picking mood [By the bye, where does the word "nit-picking" come from? Just curious...].
Here are two sentences. Let's call them "A" and "B" [Actually, sentence "A" is better known as "Pipi", while sentence "B" is called "Esmerelda". "Esmerelda" is a skinny, bearded man who likes to go grocery shopping in a tutu. And no underwear. But I digress...:
-A) Your slip is showing.
-B) You're slip is showing.
Do they both make sense as currently written? Of course not! If they did, would one of them be an easy target for ridicule? For the record, sentence "A", or "Pipi", referrs to an owned, or possessed, item. The slip belongs to you. It's your slip. And it's showing! Pull your skirt down, before every person in Toonerville makes some kind of comment. "Esmerelda", sorry, sentence "B" starts with the contraction "you're", short for the words "you are". "You are slip is showing." No sense there. Especially since "Esmerelda" never wore one [I actually knew of a person who shopped dressed the same way as "Esmerelda". You did NOT want to see him looking for something on a bottom shelf, believe you me!].
What happened? You've run into the phenomenon known as "homonyms", defined as "two words that sound identical, but have different meanings". The Woman I Love, were she here [she's at home, asleep, lucky her...], would tell you, quite correctly, that I get agitated over the smallest of things. Say what you will, that woman's got me pegged. Nevertheless, an incorrectly-used homonym can send me into madness. Silly? You bet. But there's a point worth making here. Writing, especially good writing, is an art. Like any other art, those who are the best at it develop the craft of good writing. Part of that craft involves knowing, and using, the correct word at the correct time. Never mind that your reader will probably figure out what you meant. Using the wrong word will just make you look clumsy and uncaring. Please, folks, take the time to use the correct homonym. The few extra seconds will make your writing look more like the product of a serious writer, and less like "Esmerelda" from behind on a windy day...
A Few Common Homonyms...
"there" vs "they're"
"to" vs "too"
"wear" vs "where"
"hear" vs "here"
(I think you get the idea. Please, make my life less stressful, and your postings better written. We'll all be happier. Even "Esmerelda".)
-Mike Riley

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