A homophone sounds like an innocent linguistic term. Two words which sound the same, but have different meanings entirely. English natives are used to them. “Right” and “Write”. “Hear” and” Here”. “Rough” and “Ruff”.
Why worry when it’s clear from the context which word is being used? But hang on. Is it so obvious? Could some scenarios cause confusion?
I once remember giving some TEFL students a dictation exercise. “It was a lovely sunny day at the beach. Dozens of buoys were bobbing up and down, tied to colourful boats.” The pupils were baffled. “OK, but why are boys attached to boats while swimming? These English kids are so strange!”
Come to think of it, “Beach” and “Beech” are homophones. But “Beech” is a smooth-barked tree (you’ll see them in all their glory on the Sussex lanes at this very moment).
And since Say It Global Translations has just completed an epic project involving aviation services, now is a good time to mention how some homophones could have serious repercussions in the aviation industry. Take this potential scenario:
Control Tower: “Sunny Holidays Jet flight number 902, please descend to two eight zero zero.”
Pilot: “This is Sunny Holidays flight 902. Received. Descending, two two eight zero zero.”
And that’s a funny sign to have in a plane: “No smoking aloud!”. OK, I’ll smoke quietly, then.
But we can have a lot of fun playing around with homonyms on wordplay. There are many elk-known examples. Here are some of our favourites:
“Atheism is a non-profit organisation.”
“I went to a seafood disco last week, but ended up pulling a mussel.”
“My maths teacher called me average. She’s so mean!”
Tim Vine is one of the UK’s best exponents of wordplay with his armoury of one-liners: “So I was getting into my car, and this bloke says to me ‘Can you give me a lift?’ I said ‘Sure, you look great, the world’s your oyster, go for it.'”
In fact, look at article headers in any tabloid newspaper, and you will realise how wordplay, puns, alliteration and double meanings are used to attract the reader’s attention.
Like the Sun’s pro-Brexit front-page headline on June 14th 2016 : “BeLEAVE in Britain”
Or the Daily Mirror’s 2017 front page story about Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees being honoured with a knighthood – to become Sir Barry Gibb: “Saturday Knight Fever!” A play on the album Saturday Night Fever.
Making up your own puns using homonyms isn’t as easy as you think, though. It’s a craft.
Why not see what YOU can come up with? You might find you’re a natural – and pursue a new career as a comedian known for one-liners or perhaps even as newspaper headline writer.
For any translation, you can see it makes good sense to never rely on automated translation.
Use qualified and native experts. Use Say It Global Translations.
Perfect translations every time.
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