Monday, August 15, 2016

Travels With My Ant

Homonyms are words that sound the same, but have different meanings. If you mispronounce “Aunt,” and make it sound like “Kant” rather than “hunt,” you get “ant.” “Know” sounds exactly like “no.” Sometimes the sound alludes to a connection not contained in the normal meanings. For instance when you ask many people if they "know" this or that they’ll say “yes,” when the correct answer is “no.” Philosophers of language and particularly logical positivists remove the ambiguity from language or avoid those subjects which language can not adequately express. The last proposition (number #7) of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico Philosophicus is “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Gay is a word that can have two radically different meanings and one almost wishes it were a homonym, with gay referring to a state of mind which is akin to happy and “gaye” referring to a homosexual orientation. In fact makes the following comment about “gay,” The meaning “homosexual” for the word gay has become so prevalent that people hesitate to use the term in its original senses of “merry, lively” and “bright or showy.” Load and lode are examples of typical homonyms. Merriam-Webster defines “load,” as “something that is lifted and carried” and  “lode,” as “an amount of mineral (such as gold or silver) that fills a crack or space in rock.” Of course “lode” and “load” have things in common since they both connote something which is accumulated and heavy and it would be interesting to see at what point in linguistic history the two meanings went their separate ways, adopting new spellings such as some people might like to see in the case of the two varying uses of “gay.” But getting back to Aunt, Auntie (like hunt) Mame was an eccentric character played by Rosalind Russell, based on a real personage in the writer Patrick Dennis’ life. But you might have had an aunt (pronounced like Kant) who was the opposite of Mame, a methodical self-contained little egret who cared more about her crumbs then the lives of her nieces or nephews.

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