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The Fourth Homonym
Posted: 27 May 2010 08:45 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I was reminded recently of this Asimov Story, which does indeed involve a fourth homonym, of a sort, but one of them is not English.

At one point, characters are discussing whether or not there is a set of four English words that are homonyms: from the context it is clear that what is actually meant is words that are homophones but not homographs.

e.g. pair, pear, pare make up a set of three.

Can you think of a legitimate set of four English words that are homophones but not homographs?

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Posted: 27 May 2010 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Having thought about this some more: The answer will at least partly depend on one’s dialect.

For an Australian or southern English person, I have thought of a few examples. Paw, pore, pour, poor, for example, but these are not homophones in Des Moines or Aberdeen.

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Posted: 27 May 2010 10:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I can’t think it would be that difficult to come up with four. Off the top of my head:

I, ai, eye, aye

(Pronoun, sloth, organ of sight, yes)

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Posted: 27 May 2010 10:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I got it: right, rite, wright, write!

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Posted: 27 May 2010 11:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Tees, tease, teas, tis.

(The last meaning trees of a particular kind)

Okay that proved pretty easy, so I’m raising the bar to five…

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Posted: 27 May 2010 11:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Where wear ware we’re (if you allow contractions, and talk Aussie)

I had to look up the word “contraction”: I had a complete brainout.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 02:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I have got a fiver: ewes, ues, use, yews, yous!

Ues is meant as several occurrences of the letter u and yous as several occurrences of the word you.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 04:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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And another one, maybe not 100% homophonous: cease, cees, seas, sees, seize.

Cees is meant as multiple occurrences of the letter c.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 04:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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"Not 100% homophonous” is not homophonous at all: cease ends in /s/ and thus does not fit with the others, which end in /z/.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The only ones I’ve seen so far with two syllables: carat, karat, caret, carrot.

Well, they sound alike to me.

[ Edited: 28 May 2010 05:08 AM by donkeyhotay ]
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Posted: 28 May 2010 05:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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languagehat - 28 May 2010 04:58 AM

“Not 100% homophonous” is not homophonous at all: cease ends in /s/ and thus does not fit with the others, which end in /z/.

That was my point in the first place. However, in casual speaking this set of five might have some merit. At any rate I did submit a genuine fiver in my previous post!

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Posted: 28 May 2010 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Must say I’m not familiar with the spelling ues.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 07:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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"The only ones I’ve seen so far with two syllables: carat, karat, caret, carrot.”

Nice work.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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OP Tipping - 28 May 2010 07:36 AM

Must say I’m not familiar with the spelling ues.

This spelling is shown in the Wikipedia article on the letter u.

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Posted: 28 May 2010 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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If poetic contractions are allowed:

or, oar, ore, and o’er.

So far, I think Senning’s is the best in terms of familiarity of the words and perfection of the homonymy. Donkeyhotay’s disyllabic candidates are noteworthy, but I give them slightly different vowels in the second syllable.

[ Edited: 28 May 2010 04:47 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 28 May 2010 01:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dr. Techie - 28 May 2010 12:43 PM

If poetic contractions are allowed:

or, oar, ore, and o’er.

And “ower”, maybe.

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