Heterophones…Because Homophones Are Just Too Suggestive
Recently, Weird Al Yankovic used his song “Word Crimes” to teach us all how to not make idiots of ourselves when using grammar, but it seems as if not everyone was listening. One man’s lack of attention to basic middle school language rules has created what could literally be a word crime (and Mr. Yankovic, if you somehow read this, I mean literally in its proper definition, so please don’t “smack a crowbar upside [my] stupid head.”)
Before I get into the possible crime, though, it’s time for another overdue language lesson. Homo is derived from the Latin for human, and is used in the genus classification seen in the term for the modern human, Homo sapiens. That’s right: we’re all homos. It’s also used as a Greek prefix that means “same,” as in homosexual, meaning someone who is attracted to a person of the same sex.
Another example of the homo prefix is seen in the word homophone, which refers to words that have the same sound but do not have the same meaning.
Examples of homophones can be seen in the following table.
Urban Dictionary Definitions
My Clever Examples
To transport internationally, or across water.
I’d love people to ferry copies of this post to other lands.
A gay man who acts more stereotypically feminine than most straight women.
That fairy convinced me to support gay rights with his fine use of diction.
In blog terminology, to glare with silent disapproval at a troll who has intentionally attempted to derail a topic.
If people have off-topic comments to this post, all I need to do is type “GAZE“.
A homosexual male or female.
I backed the gays at the pride parade because they used proper syntax.
The proper term for a homosexual ‘queen’ (from Elizabethan English: a male or female who sells himself for sex.) (I could have also chosen “very homosexual jeans” here.)
Yon quean not only wore a superlative gown, he also had perfect nomenclature (said in a pompous voice.)
A flamboyant homosexual, usually male, always fabulous.
That queen rocked his dress and sounded smart while doing it (said in a fabulous voice while snapping in a z formation.)
Basically, what you should learn from the above is that when someone writes about homophones, it probably has nothing to do specifically with homosexuals (except when my examples are used.) But try telling that to Clarke Woodger.
Woodger allegedly decided that one of the employees at the Norman Global Language Centre, a place teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), was out of line for writing a blog post on the very controversial world of similar-sounding words.
The employer seems to be of the opinion that ESL learners might be able to recognize the term homo, but only in the one context. Since it would be inconceivable that an ESL learning center could teach anyone that a word might have an alternate meaning, Woodger thought it best to just not ever use the word homo in any context ever. Because, you know, you don’t want anyone to mistakenly link you to the gay agenda – though the idiot agenda is perfectly acceptable.
Woodger purportedly demonstrated the above opinion when he fired an employee for writing an illicit homo-centric grammar post. Tim Torkildson, the dirty-minded teacher who wrote the post in question, claimed that as he was being fired, he was told the “blog about homophones was the last straw” and that the school was now “going to be associated with homosexuality.”
To be fair, I should mention that Woodger did rationally defend himself. According to him, the reason he acted the way he did was that people at this level of English learning “may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.” Good point, Mr. Woodger, you’ve one me to you’re side – whoops, I meant you’ve won me to your side. If only there was some way to learn the difference between those same-sounding words.
I hope we all agree that, assuming this actually happened, Woodger is a dam unreel fool of a mail who aired in his judgment, kneads to take a chill pill, and should develop some tacked. Or something like that. But is what he did a word crime in its most literal sense?
It depends on the state and whether this fits under that state’s employment at-will exceptions. This particular story took place in Utah, where a man may marry as many people as he wants so long as all the people he wants to marry are female. In Utah, employment discrimination against LGBT individuals is not yet prohibited. That being said, I’d have to say that this means that any LGBT supporter, whether that support is intentional or just through an inappropriate grammar lesson, would also not be protected.
Drat! It appears as if it is unlikely that a word crime was committed here; however, if this had happened in a more liberal state, let’s say California, it probably would have been. So, I stand by my claim that it is literally possible to commit a word crime.
Maybe one day we will live in a land where these offensive grammar violations are banned everywhere. Until that day, let us fight against blatant homophonia by teaching future generations tolerance for the English language and all of its variable meanings.
(You earn bonus points if you see all the many, many homophones scattered throughout this epic tale.)
Ashley Shaw (@Smoldering_Ashes) is an Alabama native and current New Jersey resident. A graduate of both Kennesaw State University and Thomas Goode Jones School of Law, she spends her free time reading, writing, boxing, horseback riding, playing trivia, flying helicopters, playing sports, and a whole lot else. So maybe she has too much spare time.
Featured image courtesy of [Katy via Flickr].