Writing about puns got me thinking about homonyms, which made me think of The Homonym List. My little sister was a math kid. She used to put pictures of the math books she had finished in the photo cover of her school binder, where most people put pictures of horses or Christian Slater. (Did I just date myself?) Let’s just say she liked to organize and catalogue.
At some point around 4th grade, she and my parents started keeping a list of all the homonyms they could think of. Because it was my sister’s project, the list quickly turned into a spreadsheet. For a long time, our conversations were full of things like “What about bear and bare? Or bought and bot?” Which is really kind of funny, because of course you can’t hear the difference between homonyms, but everyone always had to say both of them. Or in the case of extra-awesome ones like err, air, ere, and heir, all four. The list got very long — there were several hundred entries, but I’m not sure exactly how many, since it was “preserved” for the future on a now-obsolete computer. And in a way, that’s alright, because it leaves the challenge open.
I am hoping to make a homonym list in my class this year — maybe a collaborative one between classes, or a gently-competative one. I like the idea of it being a word project that lets the budding spreadsheet nerds among us loose, while also being a really fun way to explore the ridiculous spelling quirks of the English language. It’s also a way to learn a lot of interesting, old words without awkwardly Learning Vocabulary Words.
On a side note, I’ve been in England for the past few weeks, and there are some lovely cross-accent homonyms. I think my favorite is how when British people say “artistic,” and I say “autistic” it sounds the same.