Monday 16 September 2013

I'm waiting with baited breath

Sometimes, I just can't resist opening my big fat mouth. Even before I open it, I realise I'm running the risk of the other person looking at me askance. Askance? Oh hell, they very well could pop me one just on principle. Shaddup, ya persnickety poindexter!

All of this started when a friend of a friend writes on Facebook

Are you waiting with baited breath because it sure smells like it.

Ha, ha. Yes, quite funny. Except... the word isn't "baited", it's "bated". I thought about it. I mulled; I cogitated, then, with this little voice in the back of my head saying, "Don't do it," I commented:

I hate to be both a buttinski and a stickler, but you have committed a common homonymistic mistake. While what you say is amusing when spoken, it is incorrect when written. The expression is "bated breath", bated being an adjective meaning in great suspense; very anxiously or excitedly.

Sure enough, not thirty minutes later, somebody chimes in:

William - don't spoil David's fun!

But then, the original poster of the joke responds

no, thank you very much William.............wherein I do fully understand the improper usage of the word "baited", the intent was to inject some humor and interchange words un-homonymistically.

Do I look like a complete doofus for bringing up my killjoy point about spelling? If the author of the joke had written "baited/bated", I would have understood he was aware of the homonyms, but if he had written that, would it have detracted from the joke?

Over the past few years while blogging, I have spent a bit of time (maybe an inordinate amount of time: I'm such a nerd) researching various points of interest. What got me started with this literary quest was that I discovered people were running around making statements which weren't necessarily true. I guess I always knew that to be the case, but taking up the challenge to discover the so-called truth led me to the realisation that finding out the truth is not so easy. I began to see that what the collective we knows and understands to be fact is more based on superstition that we would care to admit. In other words, the average person in the street repeats stuff without doing their own fact-checking. We ofttimes blindly accept what we're being taught and carry on living our lives based on those lessons. It represents our traditions. It represents how we pass on from one generation to the next our so-called wisdom. But what if we're wrong?

In my posting "The Sex, The Whole Sex, and Nothing But The Sex", I point out how only a couple of hundred years ago, people thought a tobacco smoke enema would cure cholera. (You heard me!) I also brought up the female ailment know as hysteria, a well accepted truth in the late 1800's. And yes, we once thought the Earth was flat. I asked the question: What beliefs of today are people going to be laughing at two or three hundred years in the future?

Okay, I'm getting a little heavy duty here. After all, I started talking about the homonyms baited and bated. No big deal. *slaps forehead* God, I am being such a nerd. Ha ha.

Your an idiot
When you write anything, whether you're a blogger or even a journalist, you leave yourself wide open to differing opinions. Sometimes those opinions are not well-balanced, carefully crafted logical assessments of the author's ideas but more of a visceral reaction to whatever the commentator disagrees with. Kind of a literary F.U.

Back in 2010, I seemed to have raised the ire of a few readers of an MRA (Men's Rights Activists) web site and received some uncomplimentary, incendiary remarks. - Seriously, my penis is normal. - What struck me as both hilarious and ironic was one commentator's attempt to put me in my place and belittle my literary contribution to the world as the ramblings of either a madman or somebody whose I.Q. is measured in the double digits. I found this comment on my blog:

Your an idiot.

In my so named posting, I had something of a field day with this grammatically incorrect rejoinder.

Grammar: The difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit.

There's nothing like questioning somebody's intelligence by showing off your own lack of it.

Final Word
So, baited, bated? I wisely shut up after my first comment. I didn't add anything else. Let sleeping dogs lie as the old saying goes. But I did pen something. I just didn't post it. And what witty biting rejoinder had I come up with to counter all those who deride me being critical of homonymistic mistakes and all things grammatical?

Ha ha. "don't spoil the fun" Your rite their. I gnu it. I wuz beeing a grammer killjoy. :-) (Ain't I infuriatin'?)

I am proud of my self-control. No need to piss people off and start a war of words over what's funny and not funny regardless of what's grammatically correct. I can be impulsive and don't always know better, but this particular time? Yes, I can shut up and that's good gnus.


Wikipedia: Homonym
In linguistics, a homonym is, in the strict sense, one of a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings. Thus homonyms are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling). The state of being a homonym is called homonymy. Examples of homonyms are the pair stalk (part of a plant) and stalk (follow/harass a person) and the pair left (past tense of leave) and left (opposite of right). A distinction is sometimes made between "true" homonyms, which are unrelated in origin, such as skate (glide on ice) and skate (the fish), and polysemous homonyms, or polysemes, which have a shared origin, such as mouth (of a river) and mouth (of an animal).

In non-technical contexts, the term "homonym" may be used (somewhat confusingly) to refer to words that are either homographs or homophones. In this looser sense, the word row (propel with oars) and row (argument) are considered homonyms, as are the words read (peruse) and reed (waterside plant).

Wait. What!?! "Same spelling, same pronunciation, different meaning" or "different spelling, same pronunciation, different meaning" or... "same spelling, different pronunciation, different meaning." Whew! I think I'm having a Tylenol moment.

Al Cooper's Homonyms
An alphabetical listing of English homonyms.

About Al Cooper's Homonyms
I consider homonyms to be the prime numbers of the English language. Like primes, they cannot be predicted by any rules of grammar or diction. In the way that you can't search the number line for primes, you cannot systematically search the dictionary for homonyms. You just have to find them, like Easter Eggs in the dictionary.


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1 comment:

Cuckoo Momma said...

HAhahaha. Great impulse control there. You're persnickety and I'm crochety.