Thursday, February 4, 2016

Eleven More Homophones You Didn't Know Existed

Back in December, I published one of my more popular posts, "Ten Homophones You Didn't Know Existed." There are certainly more than ten. And because I enjoy learning wonderful new ways to spell words I'm so used to pronouncing, I figured, why stop?

So here, then, are eleven more homophones you didn't know existed.
While I researched this post (researched being my hoity-toity way of saying "poked around the Internet"), I was again reminded that homophone isn't an absolute label the way, say, homonym is. I stumbled upon a list of 441 sets of British-English homophones. You'll see the common ones in there, like colonel/kernel, read/reed, and threw/through. But then you'll also find a few that will make you think, 'That ain't my English!' like the pairs sauce/source, rota/rotor, and talk/torque.

And it gets a odder. On another page on the same site, the list's composer kept track of "Near Misses," pairs of words that he considered adding to the homophone list but rejected for one reason or another. In this list of "not quite homophones," you'll find caret/carrot, facts/fax, halve/have, and a few other pairs that baffle my tongue. I mean, are there people in the UK who call those pointy orange vegetables "cuh-ROTS"?

So I recognize that some of the following words might not be homophones for your particular dialect, maybe especially if you aren't American. And even if you are, there's still plenty of variety.


If it's a cold night, and you live on the coast (near a couple inlets of the sea), and the still air carries a wolf's lunar howls for miles, baize might be just what you're looking for. Baize is a faux felt made from coarse woolen or cotton fabric, perfect for warming cold feet as you relax in in your home between the bays, while a wolf bays at the moon.

Bay is also a reddish-brown color, so you might keep your toesies toasty with a bay baize blanket. 


This type of bight has two definitions, and neither of them requires teeth.

In knot-tying, a bight is a loop or slack curve in a rope, as opposed to the ends of the rope. If you're about to get personal with a noose, biting through the bight might ruin your executioner's day but would give you more time to enjoy respiration.

In geography, a bight is a bend in the coast that forms an open bay, as if someone took not so much a bite as a bunch of nibbles out of the coastline. Much of the southern coast of Australia is referred to as the Great Australian Bight, though the International Hydrographic Organization and the Australian Hydrographic Service are once again bickering like brothers about exactly how far the bight extends.

Behave, you two!


Apparently a shortening of closure, cloze is an adjective that refers to a type of reading comprehension test in which the person being tested supplies _____ that have been omitted from ______. Did you pass?


Has your cousin ever tried to trick you into doing something you know you shouldn't? He might have been cozening you. To cozen (pronounced like "cousin") is to use "artful coaxing and wheedling or shrewd trickery," according to Merriam-Webster.

Judging by how often Shakespeare used it, it might have been one of his favorite words, if not his favorite pastime.

I would cozen the man of his wife and do his service.
All's Well That Ends Well, IV.4


If you truly pronounce cruel as a single-syllable word, then this isn't a true homophone for you. Regardless, crewel is a type of worsted yarn used for embroidery and edging, which is known as crewelwork. I am told some people actually enjoy doing crewelwork; for the rest of us, it is cruel work indeed.


Dictionary entries for this word include a handful of pronunciations. One of them — not the first — is something akin to imperial. So for most people, empyreal isn't a true homophone, but it's just too beautiful a word to leave of this list.

The adjective empyreal refers to the sky or, according to ancient cosmology, to the highest parts of heaven, where the pure element of fire (notice the pyre in the middle) was contained. It's more often used in the sense of "celestial" these days.

Just imagine Darth Vader strolling into Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back and you'll have a good start on linking empyreal and its more or less homophonic brother imperial.
Cue the Empyreal March.
(See more artists' concepts of cities in the clouds at io9.)


I think most people (most word people, anyway) know that there are both gaffes and gaffs but never consciously recognized their existence as homophones. I never did.

Gaff is a bit of jargon in a number of areas, including fishing (it's a large hook for pulling in big fish), climbing (a spur on a climbing iron for getting up and down, for example, a telephone pole), sailing (there's a gaff sail, but I get lost in the nautical terminology long before I can figure out what it does), social commentary (it's a particularly harsh criticism), and gambling (it can mean to cheat or simply to gamble).

A gaffe, on the other hand, is a goof. An uh-oh. A blunder. Like accidentally leaving the e off the end of the word.

In addition to all this, somehow the gaffer, a mainstay of motion picture credits, is a film's head electrician.


Plenty of famous people have been indicted (formally accused) in courts, and we eat it up. Plenty of famous people have also been prone to indite, and,unfortunately, we eat that up too. (I'm wagging my elitist finger at all y'all who have purchased one of Snookie's books.)

To indite is to give literary expression to something or, more broadly, to put something in writing.


A laager is not an extra-refreshing lager, one that really makes you go "aaaah!" — although a laager with a keg is probably more fun.

Laager is a South African word for a camp that is set up inside a circle of wagons.


Like its homophone surge, serge can be a verb and a noun. As a verb, to serge is to sew (especially with a machine) in a special way along the edge of a fabric to avoid fraying. As a noun, serge is a type of twilled fabric that has diagonal ridges on both sides and is used especially for clothes.

A serge coat with serged hems and high-quality crewelwork would be pretty snazzy, and it wouldn't ravel.


If Dr. Seuss had invented the tapir, it would have been a magical creature with a huge head followed by a body that just got smaller and smaller as you went along. And it would have one eye, just like its name.

These are the jokes, people. The terrible, terrible jokes.

Even without Dr. Seuss, a tapir is pretty much what you'd get if you crossed a pig and a baby elephant. It's an herbivorous quadruped whose prehensile nose is small from an elephant's perspective but rather large from every other perspective. It lives in Central and South America and Southeast Asia, where it reminds cocaine fiends to keep an eye on their stash.
True fact: Because of an obscure French law,
all pet tapirs must be named "Cyrano."
The four species of tapir are all identified as either vulnerable or endangered, which means that their numbers are tapering out over time.

 You can go ahead and boo that last pun. I can't hear you.