What's in a Word | All Blogs

A misspelling? Not!

By Debra Dobbins

As I scanned the paper today, I had a close call. A sports headline on page B3 read “Not getting board.” Some clever graphic artist made sure the hed’s type grazed the iconic mane of the Flying Tomato.

I don’t follow sports much, but even I know that the Flying Tomato is Shaun White, the legendary snowboarder who took gold in the halfpipe at the Vancouver Olympics last February.

If I hadn’t known, I would have risen up in righteous indignation and complained that “board” should have been spelled “bored,” as in losing interest. I can just picture the incredulous looks from our editorial staffers at that point. To save face, I would have had to divulge what rock I’ve been hiding under all these years.

“Board” and “bored” are examples of homophones, words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. English is overrun with them. Common examples are hear, here; meat, meet; to, two, too; and their, they’re, there. (The root homo, by the way, means same, and the root phone means sound.)

The headline writer assumed that readers would understand the play on words. Luckily for me, this time I did. Once football season rolls around, I’ll be back under that rock.




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