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Homophones and homonyms: How these word categories make for hilarious jokes

By Admin | Jan,30 2015 |  | 

Could you bear to stand tall next to a bear? What would it look like if you took on the bear with your own bare hands? While this paints a picture of a really tricky situation, the words that make it up are even trickier. And often, they are the source of unexpected humour.


If you observe closely, you’ll realize that the use of these words can lead to unimaginable mix-ups, both within and beyond your classroom.


Homophones and homonyms are two word categories that you can either really love or instantly despise. A quick recap, you ask? Homonyms are words that are spelt and pronounced in the same way, but have different meanings (Like bear the animal and bear that means to tolerate). While homophones are words are two or more words that are pronounced alike but have different spellings and different meanings (like bear the animal and bare that means uncovered.)


A very crowded doctor’s clinic once had a poster that read – “He who is ill, must be patient”. Here, patient is the homonym that means one who is sick as well as the quality of being tolerant and understanding. Funny as it may seem right now, wouldn’t you hate to have the fact that you’re a patient rubbed in your face?


Both homophones and homonyms lend themselves to a lot of puns. And a lot of fun with the puns. The word play that goes with it can get you past a sticky situation and earn a few laughs along the way. Like when Mrs.Sharma rushed back to the baker with the bread she had just bought. “Why does it have a hole in it?” she yells. “Madam, because it’s whole bread!” retorts the baker. Mrs.Sharma smiles forgivingly. Doesn’t that seem like one witty baker?


Homophones and homonyms are like ninjas that attack when you least expect them to. But they are also like the prime numbers of the English language. There are no absolute rules of grammar or diction that can predict and define these categories. The perception of similar sounding words and meanings is also quite subjective. Regional accents, dialects and the cultural meanings that these words hold can also add new dimensions to the story.


While the dictionary comes to our rescue most other times, you can’t look it up for a list of homonyms or homophones. If you’ve paid attention to them in class or made a mental note, you’re in the clear. But if you haven’t, you might have to buy your own learning and experiences. You can only hope that the experience will be hilarious and not disastrous.


An exciting way to keep track of homophones and homonyms is to create your very own joke bank –


“What kind of party do plumbers go to?

  • A tap dance!”


 “What did the chess piece say before he went to bed?

  • Knight, knight!”


“How do you make a library bigger?

  • By adding stories to it!” 


You can even get clever with them and give classic jokes and riddles a twist –


“What’s black, white and red all over?

-          A newspaper!”


If you’re alert, these homophone and homonym ninjas can boost your joke compilation and make sure you knock out every class test and tricky situation. When it comes to fighting these word categories, laughter is definitely the best medicine, and weapon.


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