Homonyms, homographs, homophones and Australian Language by Lynette Duffy
A homonym is words that sound and are spelt alike, yet have different meanings.
Example – fair (pale), fair (market) and fair (unbiased).
The fair maiden considered the price was fair when she attended the market fair.
A homograph is words that are spelt the same, yet sound different and have different meanings.
Example – bow (bend at waist) and bow (tie ribbon).
The boy had to bow to tie a bow on his shoe.
A homophone is different words that sound alike but are spelt differently.
Example – pair (two of a kind), pare (cut) and pear (fruit).
'Pare the skin off the pear when making a pie' said the pair of cooks.
If all that sounds confusing, then you would not be alone. English is a hard language to learn and understand.
Once you start researching homonyms, homographs and homophones, you will come across heteronyms, paronyms, polysemes, capitonyms, synophones and synonyms and you can spend a long time trying to understand why, how and where all these terms are used.
In the early 2000's, when we were hosting International Students, I studied English as a Second Language. A few years ago, I upgraded my skills in ESL and started assisting in classrooms for new migrants in Australia, held at my local TAFE College. Both courses awakened me to the difficulties, for non-English speaking people, of how hard it was to learn the language we take for granted. Australia has a unique way of phrasing, which can be challenging to comprehend.
Just imagine what new migrants might think, when they hear us using terms?
'It blew my socks off'
'Looked like something the cat dragged in'
'He has a kangaroo loose in the top paddock'
'The kids let the cat out of the bag'
'It was a bottler of an idea'
'Well he is for the high jump'
'Flat out like a lizard drinking'
'It is hard to make ends meet'
'He is as mad a cut snake'
'Well stone the crows'
'I was lead up a gum tree'
How about something more simplistic?
'Spit the dummy'
'Nurse the baby'
'It stumped me'
Lynnette I found this blog gobsmacking (a word
which might also confuse some non English/Australian speakers.) Thanks for sharing. You might like to check out a picture book by Katrine Germaine called 'My Mother Says the Strangest Things' You can hear her read the story on the Little Big Book Club website I think.... her story reflects the Australian way of saying things that can also be confusing/gobsmacking to a child! Best wishes...David