I have a problem. If I were a chef or a visual artist, it might not really matter. But since I’m a writer, it’s a bigger issue. I’m homophone blind.
Waste paper basket? Or is it waist paper basket? Is it a bale of hay, or a bail of hay?
The first time my agent read my manuscript for THE SNOW CHILD, I’m pretty sure the first page had something about my main character “ringing” water out of a washcloth, rather than “wringing.”
Thank goodness, I have my mom. In addition to being an incredible poet, Julie LeMay is also a handy copy editor. She saved me on this last blog post when I wrote about planting “currents” in the back yard. “I think that should be currants, with an A,” she politely pointed out. All I could do was laugh, and count my blessing for her eagle eye.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t there the day of my downfall. Of all the homophone errors I’ve made, the most embarrassing went to print in our local newspaper, the Frontiersman. At the time, I covered the outdoors. Each week I would write articles and columns about the fishing season, great hikes, hunting opportunities and wilderness adventures.
I know next to nothing about mechanical things, but I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and write an article about ATVs (all-terrain vehicles such as four-wheelers.) They are popular in Alaska as a means to access remote areas.
I did my research – I visited a local ATV shop and talked with people who use them a lot. I wrote the article. It went to press. I was feeling dangerously proud. The next morning, the phone rang at my desk.
“Yeah, I was calling ‘cause I really liked that article you did on four-wheelers. Especially the part about having a wench on the front. Does she come with a six pack of beer, too?”
I had no idea what he was talking about, so laughed nervously and hung up quickly. Then I opened the paper on my desk. No less than half a dozen times I had referred to the need for a “wench” on the front of your four-wheeler. A wench, as in a flirty bar maid or something.
What I had meant was a “winch” as in a handy tool that you can use to pull yourself out of a mud hole. I could have used one right then, to pull myself out of the verbal mud hole I had landed in. A winch, that is. Not a wench.
This homophone blindness feels like a kind of dyslexia. If there are two words that sound the same I almost inevitably choose the wrong one. Each time I choose incorrectly, I have to commit it to memory, in hopes that I won’t make the same mistake again. But there are always knew ones to come across. Just kidding, I no that one.
P.S. Any homophone mistakes appearing in this blog are mine and mine alone, but words appearing correctly are thanks to my mom!