As my husband and I were driving through the tunnel on our way home from the airport, we saw a light flash. “What was that?” he wondered. I shrugged and continued flipping through the radio stations. “I hope it wasn’t a camera taking a picture of my license plate because it thinks I’m speeding!” I glanced over. “I’m sure it wasn’t. I don’t think the tunnel has those kind of cameras.” He paused. “I’d contest a ticket if I got one.” “You do that,” I replied with a smile. A few more minutes went by and I heard him muttering under his breath. “Contest, contest, contest, contest.” “What are you doing?” I finally asked, turning down the radio. “Isn’t it funny how words can be spelled the same, but pronounced differently, and mean completely different things? ‘I want to contest the ticket.’ ‘I hope to win the contest.'” “They’re called homographs,” I informed him.
Since that night, we (along with friends and family) have made a game of naming all the homographs we can think of. The rules are fairly simple. It has to meet the definition of a homograph, and you have to have thought of it on your own; no googling “homographs!” I love language. For me, thinking of homographs is fun. I also keep a mental list of favorite words (the top one being defenestration, It amuses me to no end that there is a word that means “the action of throwing something or someone out of a window.”) There’s nothing better than learning the etymology of a word (did you know the earliest use of unputdownable is from a letter written by Raymond Chandler in 1947), bemoaning the ridiculous words added to the OED (Bling and D’oh OED?! Really?), or hearing a witty pun (for example the email with 10 lame puns that ends with “Finally, there was the person who sent ten different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.”). As a copyeditor, writer, and avid reader, words are not just my work, they are my life.