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  #1  
Old 07-26-2011, 07:49 AM
BDoors BDoors is offline
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Words with most homophones?

Or strictly speaking, words with the most heterographs, i.e. groups of words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings. There is this set of four:

new
knew
gnu
nu (Greek letter)

all of which (in some common dialects of English) are pronounced "noo" (in other dialects some or all of them are pronounced "nyoo").

Any other examples?
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  #2  
Old 07-26-2011, 07:54 AM
Sparky812 Sparky812 is offline
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Bo
Bow
Bough
Beau
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Old 07-26-2011, 07:59 AM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BDoors View Post
Or strictly speaking, words with the most heterographs, i.e. groups of words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings. There is this set of four:

new
knew
gnu
nu (Greek letter)

all of which (in some common dialects of English) are pronounced "noo" (in other dialects some or all of them are pronounced "nyoo").

Any other examples?
Isaac Asimov once had a mystery hinge on that:

SPOILER:
two, to, too, and "Et tu, Brute?"
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Old 07-26-2011, 08:01 AM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is offline
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Also: write, right, wright, and rite.
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  #5  
Old 07-26-2011, 08:53 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is offline
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Not quite as many, but wildly differing definitions:

hoard
horde
whored

Technically, of course, the most homophones belong to

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Verizon's San Francisco Office
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  #6  
Old 07-26-2011, 09:24 AM
BDoors BDoors is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
Not quite as many, but wildly differing definitions:

hoard
horde
whored
And, in British English at least, "hawed" (hesitated vocally) as in "hemmed and hawed".

Thinking of that British non-rhotic thing, there's also

board
bored
bawd
baud (bit of a stretch maybe, but dictionary.com lists it, pronounced "bawd")
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Old 07-26-2011, 09:24 AM
Morgenstern Morgenstern is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
Not quite as many, but wildly differing definitions:

hoard
horde
whored

Technically, of course, the most homophones belong to

SPOILER:
Verizon's San Francisco Office
He said word, not world.
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  #8  
Old 07-26-2011, 02:28 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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The most I know of is "air", though some of them are a bit of a stretch:

Air: Breathable gas
Err: Make a mistake
Heir: Scion
Aire: A tune (as in, "Londonderry Aire")
Are: A unit of area equal to 100 square meters (it's what a hectare is 100 of).

There's also bite, bight, and byte, and it seems to me I used to know another one for that set, but I can't remember it.

EDIT: Another foursome.
You: Second person
Ewe: Female sheep
Yew: Bow-wood tree
U: 21st letter

Last edited by Chronos; 07-26-2011 at 02:31 PM..
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  #9  
Old 07-26-2011, 02:41 PM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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Another foursome:

Thew
Phew
Few
Feu (as in fee)
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  #10  
Old 07-26-2011, 02:43 PM
hibernicus hibernicus is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
The most I know of is "air", though some of them are a bit of a stretch:

Air: Breathable gas
Err: Make a mistake
Heir: Scion
Aire: A tune (as in, "Londonderry Aire")
Are: A unit of area equal to 100 square meters (it's what a hectare is 100 of).
Ere: before
E'er: ever
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Old 07-26-2011, 02:53 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Thanks, hibernicus, I should have remembered those.

And Quartz, in what dialect are "thew" and "phew" homophones?
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Old 07-26-2011, 03:02 PM
BDoors BDoors is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
The most I know of is "air", though some of them are a bit of a stretch:

Air: Breathable gas
Err: Make a mistake
Heir: Scion
Aire: A tune (as in, "Londonderry Aire")
Are: A unit of area equal to 100 square meters (it's what a hectare is 100 of).
Nice, although I don't recognise "aire". I thought the tune was called "Londonderry Air". Still, with "ere" that's a set of five. I don't pronounce "err" like "air" myself, but I think I have heard others do so.

Last edited by BDoors; 07-26-2011 at 03:05 PM..
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  #13  
Old 07-26-2011, 03:10 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is offline
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And of course, French has a set of 6 homophones (though only five different spellings) that are, AFAIK etymologically distinct: vert (green), ver (worm), vers (verse), vers (towards), verre (glass), and vaire (a kind of fur, weasel I think). And Cinderella's "glass slipper" (makes no sense) was based on confusion between the last two words.
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  #14  
Old 07-26-2011, 03:12 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
The most I know of is "air", though some of them are a bit of a stretch:

Air: Breathable gas
Err: Make a mistake
Heir: Scion
Aire: A tune (as in, "Londonderry Aire")
Are: A unit of area equal to 100 square meters (it's what a hectare is 100 of).

There's also bite, bight, and byte, and it seems to me I used to know another one for that set, but I can't remember it.

EDIT: Another foursome.
You: Second person
Ewe: Female sheep
Yew: Bow-wood tree
U: 21st letter
I believe "err" is pronounced more like "ur", is it not?

Hey!:

Not
Naught
Knot

Dew
Due
Do

Last edited by Chefguy; 07-26-2011 at 03:13 PM..
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  #15  
Old 07-26-2011, 03:30 PM
california jobcase california jobcase is offline
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Carrot
Carat
Karat
Caret
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  #16  
Old 07-26-2011, 03:36 PM
TimToyGeek TimToyGeek is offline
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A fun example I remember from Games Magazine some time back:

When the shepherd asked us "Did YOUSE see any EWES over by the YEWS?" we knew he didn't USE good grammar.

youse
ewes
yews
use
u's
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  #17  
Old 07-26-2011, 04:10 PM
jeffgorc jeffgorc is offline
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By
Bye
Bi
Buy
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  #18  
Old 07-26-2011, 04:35 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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I
Aye
Eye

Eau
O
Oh
Owe
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  #19  
Old 07-26-2011, 05:26 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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The funniest book that nobody's ever heard of is The World's Largest Cheese by Christopher Cerf.

Cerf was part of the Harvard Lampoon in its glory days, and while there published a cartoon piece with Michael K. Frith and Jack Winter called "See the Merino Standing There, with His Long, Shaggy Hair." A merino is a type of long-haired sheep. Each page is a cartoon of a merino plus a caption of wordplay. You see the merino with a long shaggy:

hair
hare
Eyre
Eire
air
hayer
heir

before veering off into "C," the merino or the merino "Stan Ding." The cartoons are great and you can't get the humor without them. So you have to buy the book. You will thank me.
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  #20  
Old 07-26-2011, 05:35 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Are we allowed to cross over language boundaries?

Driving on the highway, getting hungry, we see signs for a place with great frittatas...

Aye, I eye āy, ai ail Ei, ai ay.

āy - Arabic for 'signs'
ai - Chinese for 'love'
ail - French for 'garlic'
Ei - German for 'egg'
ai - Italian for 'to the'
ay - Turkish for 'moon'.
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  #21  
Old 07-26-2011, 05:55 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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site
sight
cite?
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  #22  
Old 07-26-2011, 06:01 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
Nice, although I don't recognise "aire". I thought the tune was called "Londonderry Air".
I've seen both spellings for that usage, but I've never seen "aire" used for the gas. So I feel justified in calling it a homophone, though I'll admit that's one of the stretches.
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Old 07-26-2011, 06:34 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BDoors View Post
Or strictly speaking, words with the most heterographs, i.e. groups of words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings. There is this set of four:

new
knew
gnu
nu (Greek letter)

all of which (in some common dialects of English) are pronounced "noo" (in other dialects some or all of them are pronounced "nyoo").

Any other examples?
Add Yiddish "nu?" So?, What's up?
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  #24  
Old 07-26-2011, 11:21 PM
Cunctator Cunctator is online now
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Taught: past tense and past participle of verb to teach
Taut: tightly drawn, tense
Tort: actionable civil wrong
Torte: type of cake
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  #25  
Old 07-26-2011, 11:28 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cunctator View Post
Taught: past tense and past participle of verb to teach
Taut: tightly drawn, tense
Tort: actionable civil wrong
Torte: type of cake
tot: a small child
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  #26  
Old 07-26-2011, 11:34 PM
Cunctator Cunctator is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
tot: a small child
Perhaps in your neck of the woods. Here 'tot' is not homophonic with the other four words. Its vowel is much shorter.
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  #27  
Old 07-26-2011, 11:41 PM
Crazyhorse Crazyhorse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
tot: a small child
or a small 'tater.


How about

bear - the animal
bear - change direction
bare - exposed, uncovered

to
two
too

flu
flue
flew

poor
pour
paw (British English)
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  #28  
Old 07-27-2011, 01:32 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Are we allowed to cross over language boundaries?....
If we are, head for the hills, because I've been reading Finnegans Wake for 30 years. I think I could dig up a few...
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  #29  
Old 07-27-2011, 01:36 AM
dtilque dtilque is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cunctator View Post
Taught: past tense and past participle of verb to teach
Taut: tightly drawn, tense
Tort: actionable civil wrong
Torte: type of cake
This is where non-rhotic dialects have an advantage. In my (rhotic) dialect, the first two are homophones and the last two are, but the two pairs are pronounced differently. And "tot" is pronounced differently yet.

So you guys learn to pronounce your bloody Rs and we be having this nonsense
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  #30  
Old 07-27-2011, 02:03 AM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
And Quartz, in what dialect are "thew" and "phew" homophones?
Few.
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  #31  
Old 07-27-2011, 03:41 AM
Floater Floater is offline
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Originally Posted by Johanna View Post
Are we allowed to cross over language boundaries?

Driving on the highway, getting hungry, we see signs for a place with great frittatas...

Aye, I eye āy, ai ail Ei, ai ay.

āy - Arabic for 'signs'
ai - Chinese for 'love'
ail - French for 'garlic'
Ei - German for 'egg'
ai - Italian for 'to the'
ay - Turkish for 'moon'.
You forgot aj - Swedish for 'ouch'.
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  #32  
Old 07-27-2011, 04:35 AM
KellyCriterion KellyCriterion is offline
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No love for

There
Their
They're?
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  #33  
Old 07-27-2011, 05:48 AM
dtilque dtilque is online now
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So you guys learn to pronounce your bloody Rs and we be having this nonsense
Somehow the word won't got dropped out of this sentence. Unfortunate.
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  #34  
Old 07-27-2011, 10:45 AM
Oglomott Oglomott is offline
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Pin (as in safety pin)
Pin (as in pin your opponent)
Pen (as in ball point)
Pen (as in pig)
Penn (as in Penn Jillette)
Penn (as in Penn Station)
PIN (as in the number you use at the ATM)

Last edited by Oglomott; 07-27-2011 at 10:47 AM.. Reason: forgot an entry!
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  #35  
Old 07-27-2011, 12:47 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Are we counting words with the same spelling but separate origins as "homophones"?

And in my dialect, "pen" and "pin" are completely different. And Penn Jillette and Penn Station probably have a common origin, anyway (Station certainly, and Jillette probably, ultimately deriving from the last name Penn).
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Old 07-27-2011, 02:03 PM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oglomott View Post
Pin (as in safety pin)
Pin (as in pin your opponent)
Pen (as in ball point)
Pen (as in pig)
Penn (as in Penn Jillette)
Penn (as in Penn Station)
PIN (as in the number you use at the ATM)
Pin and pen are only homophones if you're from New Zealand or someplace else that butchers the language. They also say "pincil' for pencil, "did" for dead, etc.
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  #37  
Old 07-27-2011, 03:05 PM
Pasta Pasta is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
Pin and pen are only homophones if you're from New Zealand or someplace else that butchers the language. They also say "pincil' for pencil, "did" for dead, etc.
Pin-pen merger map.
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  #38  
Old 07-27-2011, 03:53 PM
Oglomott Oglomott is offline
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Originally Posted by Pasta View Post
I admit I had no idea that such a map existed, or that anyone is keeping track of something like that. FWIW, I'm from an area outside where pin and pen are pronounced the same, although I still pronounce them the same.
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  #39  
Old 07-27-2011, 04:31 PM
FatBaldGuy FatBaldGuy is offline
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your
you're
yore
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  #40  
Old 07-27-2011, 05:33 PM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is online now
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sore
soar
saw (past of see)
saw (tool for cutting)
saw (proverb)
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  #41  
Old 07-27-2011, 06:04 PM
BDoors BDoors is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Are we counting words with the same spelling but separate origins as "homophones"?
People can post whatever they like of course, but I was really after homophones that are spelt differently, i.e. heterographs. However, any words with the same sound but different meanings are homophones, regardless of whether they're spelt the same. I don't think contractions such as "they're" count, because they are not single words. Acronyms are a grey area, because some of them have become legitimate words.
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Old 07-27-2011, 07:39 PM
Lord Mondegreen Lord Mondegreen is offline
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Originally Posted by Oglomott View Post
I admit I had no idea that such a map existed, or that anyone is keeping track of something like that. FWIW, I'm from an area outside where pin and pen are pronounced the same, although I still pronounce them the same.
I can't think of the proper way to ask this questions, but I'll try.

I can't recall hearing anyone pronounce pen and pin in the same way. Would your pronunciation of both match the way I say pin, the way I say pen, or something else?
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  #43  
Old 07-27-2011, 09:15 PM
Speak to me Maddie! Speak to me Maddie! is offline
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Originally Posted by Lord Mondegreen View Post
I can't recall hearing anyone pronounce pen and pin in the same way. Would your pronunciation of both match the way I say pin, the way I say pen, or something else?
How do you pronounce those words?

I live in east Texas. Both words are pronounced the same. They rhyme with tin, sin, and kin.
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  #44  
Old 07-27-2011, 11:33 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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If we are, head for the hills, because I've been reading Finnegans Wake for 30 years. I think I could dig up a few...
This was an assholish post. I apologize.
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  #45  
Old 07-28-2011, 02:28 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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bore - as with al gore
bore - as with a drill
bore - meaning gun caliber
bore - meaning tidal bore
bore - as with mother mary with jesus
bore - down with a truck
bore - frodo with the ring
boar - male pig?

Last edited by mac_bolan00; 07-28-2011 at 02:29 AM..
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  #46  
Old 07-28-2011, 03:08 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by Sparky812 View Post
Bo
Bow
Bough
Beau
In what dialect is "bough" homophonous with any of the others (besides "bow" in, for example, the nautical sense)?
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  #47  
Old 07-28-2011, 03:09 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by mac_bolan00 View Post
bore - as with al gore
bore - as with a drill
bore - meaning gun caliber
bore - meaning tidal bore
bore - as with mother mary with jesus
bore - down with a truck
bore - frodo with the ring
I thought we were discussing homophony, not polysemy.
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Old 07-28-2011, 03:15 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by astorian View Post
Eau
O
Oh
Owe
Add "eaux" to the list and this set is in second place, behind air/err/heir/aire/are/ere/e'er/Eyre/Eire (plus hair/hare/hayer for h-dropping dialects), which are certainly homophonous in many dialects. I don't think anyone's going to beat that one.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy
I believe "err" is pronounced more like "ur", is it not?
Maybe for you, but not for everyone.

Last edited by psychonaut; 07-28-2011 at 03:16 AM..
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  #49  
Old 07-28-2011, 03:17 AM
mac_bolan00 mac_bolan00 is offline
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the OP wasn't very accrurate about that, i think. "different spellings AND meanings."
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  #50  
Old 07-28-2011, 03:34 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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Not where I'm from but in some places:

Cocks
Corks
Caulks
Cox
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