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Play On Words


By Bill Frazer

I do not think that I could get command of the English language without it being my native tongue. I guess “redneck” vocabulary can be considered an offshoot of the King’s English. As an example, when I am around intellectuals like Dimwit Fitts, they do not understand terms like “busting a gut.” All of us hicks know that the term is a great description of straining to perform a task, which is exactly what I am doing now.

English is not so specific in terms. Look at these words spelled and pronounced exactly alike but with different meanings. When I say “darn it,” does it mean that Dimwit is sewing up a tear in my shirt or that I am using a mild expletive? If I say “fudge,” does it mean candy or cheating? If I say “pool,” am I going swimming or playing on the table? Now when you say “bear,” are you referring to an animal or endurance? What does it mean when I say “bow?” Am I referring to shooting an arrow or the ribbons on a present? If you say “mine,” do you own it or is it a hole underground? Oh, there is a difference in pronunciation for some words, but how can you know if only seen in print? I am sure that words pronounced exactly the same but having different meanings would be a problem for someone trying to learn English.

Also, there are many words in the dictionary spelled exactly the same but having different interpretations and different pronunciations. I already mentioned one word “bow.” If pronounced differently, it can refer to a bend of the head or knee as a sign of respect. And what about the same pronunciation but different spelling? A popular lullaby mentions “when the ‘bough’ breaks, the cradle will fall.” Anyone with English as a second language is probably scrambling in their noggin about which word is it, what does it mean, and how in the world to pronounce! And then consider the number of words that are spelled slightly differently but are pronounced exactly the same. Consider beet (vegetable) or the same pronunciation of beat (tired or a police route). The use of the word red (color) or read (perused) could be confusing to a student. There is the word “loan” and the word “lone” pronounced identically but having entirely different meanings.

The past sentence brings to mind the word “mean.” Now when the “mean” James Walter Allen points a gun at me and says “git,” does it “mean” for me to receive a gift or “mean” for me to make tracks by any “means” available. “Mean”while, I “weigh” (or is it “way” as they are pronounced the same) the consequences since the donkey (I am not allowed to use the J word) is an avid and very vocal Roll Tide fan. I take “note” (but isn’t that a bank document?) that you take your life in your hands if you go out to Lafayette True Value Hardware wearing an Auburn shirt. Somebody might “chute” or “shoot” you.

I should “no” (or is it “know”) better than to address the use of the word “broad.” Usually, you are describing something very wide. Hmmm! I might get a bit in trouble, but why do we sometimes use that word to refer to a woman? I expect that in early years the word “broad” would not be applicable. (Please note that I am not referring to anyone that I know.)

So, for all you readers of this column who take the attitude of my writing to just “grin and bear it,” I will have you “no” that I might just think that you are crazy to be smiling at bears.