English pronunciation is like the cuckoo that is born in a crow’s nest.
— Jims Varkey
In our previous posts on language, we met the phantoms of the English language – the Phantonyms, and the two-faced Janus words – the Contronyms. The former mean something totally different from what they sound like, while the latter mean one thing and also its exact opposite! In this post, let us introduce you to the chameleons of the English language – the Heteronyms.
Heteronyms (hetero- “different” + onym “name”) are words that have the same spelling but whose meanings change when they are pronounced differently. Visually, these words appear identical. But just like a chameleon changes its color according to its surroundings, these words change their pronunciation and their meaning according to the context.
So let’s find out how and where these chameleons hide and what colors they take on.
If you read (pronounced REED) a book a month, you would have read (pronounced RED) twelve books in a year.
In order to project (pronounced proJEKT) your project (pronounced PROHjekt) you would need a projector.
One minute (pronounced MINNit) is 60 seconds but a newborn has minute (pronounced myNEWT) feet.
Don’t desert (pronounced dihZURT) your friends in the desert (pronounced DEZert).
If you tear (pronounced TARE) a book it may bring tears (pronounced TEER) in the eyes of a book lover.
Parking your bicycle in a row (pronounced ROH) can avoid a row (pronounced RAU).
I want to present (pronounced preeSENT) you a present (pronounced PREZent) on your birthday.
When I dove (pronounced DOEV) into the water I saw a dove (pronounced DUV) fly away.
To live (pronounced LIV) is to enjoy life, while live (pronounced LYVE) music is the one happening right now.
Lead (pronounced LED) is a metallic element, while to lead (pronounced LEED) is to guide someone.
Enjoy the wind (pronounced WINd), but remember to wind (pronounced WHINEd) your watch.
You can wear a bow (pronounced BOH) tie to your party and then bow (pronounced BAU) to welcome your guests.
I used my gaming console (pronounced KONsole) to console (pronounced kunSOLE) myself after the loss of my best friend.
So now that you know how these chameleons behave, are you confident of taming them? Let us know in the comments below.