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11.07.2019 Opinion

Some Common Errors Of Malapropism, Homophones

By Anthony Kwadwo Kyei

As a proofreader, I have noticed that two common types of mistakes in written English are malapropism and confusion as regards the use of homophones.

Malapropism is the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one as in 'my dad has bought a brand new salon car' instead of 'my dad has bought a brand new saloon car'. Salon is an establishment where a hairdresser, beautician, or couturier conducts trade (e.g. a hairdressing salon).

In grammar, words that sound the same but have different meanings, spelling, or origins are called homophones (e.g. hear and here). It's easier to confuse homophones than words that sound similar.

Now, let's consider some common errors of malapropism and homophones in written English.

Pull Resources Or Pool Resources?

Carefully study the following sentence: Three close friends have pulled resources to start a new business. The sentence is incorrect. In context, the correct word is 'pool' and not 'pull'. As a verb, pool means 'to collect money, information, etc. from different people so that it can be used by all of them'. Hence, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: Three close friends have pooled resources to start a new business.

Bother On Or Border On?

Next, study the following sentence carefully: The issue at stake is very serious since it bothers on criminality. The sentence is incorrect. The correct phrasal verb is 'border on' which means 'come close to or be developing into (an extreme condition)'. There is no phrasal verb as 'bother on' in English. Therefore, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as follows: The issue at stake is very serious since it borders on criminality.

Flare Or Flair?

Next, study the following sentence: John doesn't have the flare for writing good scripts. The sentence is incorrect due to the use of 'flare'. The correct word is 'flair'. As a noun, flair means 'a natural ability or talent', whereas 'flare' means 'burn or gradually become wider' as in 'the flare of the match lit up her face' or 'a flare of anger'. Hence, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: John doesn't have the flairfor writing good scripts.

Whooping Or Whopping?

Next, study the following sentence from the social media: Neymar left Barcelona and joined PSG at a whooping £550,000 per week. The sentence is incorrect. In context, the correct word is 'whopping' and not 'whooping'. As an adjective, whopping means 'very big'. As a verb, whooping means 'to give or make a loud cry of joy or excitement' as in 'they were whooping with laughter'. Therefore, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: Neymar left Barcelona and joined PSG at a whopping £550,000 per week.

Portable Water Or Potable Water?

Next, study the following sentence: Many Ghanaians in rural communities lack portable water. The sentence is incorrect. In context, the correct word is 'potable' and not 'portable'. As adjectives, potable means '(of water) safe to drink', whereas portable means 'able to be easily carried or moved' as in 'I've bought a portable radio'. Hence, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: Many Ghanaians in rural communities lack potable water.

Lightening Or Lightning?

Next, study the following headline from a local newspaper: Radio station struck by lightening and thunder. The use of 'lightening' in the headline is incorrect. In context, the correct word is 'lightning'. The words 'lightning' and 'lightening' look and sound similar, but they have completely different meanings. As a noun, lightning refers to the flash of light that precedes thunder, while lightening is the progressive tense of the verb 'to lighten' which means 'to make lighter or brighter'. Besides, lightening refers to the sensation that a pregnant woman feels when the lower part of the fetus descends into the maternal pelvis. Hence, the headline should be corrected as: Radio station struck by lightning and thunder.

Internment Or Interment?

Next, study the following sentence: The burial service will commence with an enskinment followed by internment at the Military Cemetery. The use of 'internment' in the sentence is incorrect. The correct word is 'interment'. Interment means 'the burial of a corpse in a grave or tomb, typically with funeral rites'. Internment means 'the state of being confined as a prisoner, especially for political or military reasons' as in 'he was threatened with internment in a concentration camp'. Therefore, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: The burial service will commence with an enskinment followed by interment at the Military Cemetery.

Artist Or Artistes?

Next, study the following sentence: The live performances of all the artists on the bill kept music fans on their feet throughout the night. The use of 'artists' in the sentence is incorrect. The correct word is 'artistes'. Artistes are 'professional entertainers, especially singers or dancers', whereas artists are 'persons who create paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby'. Hence, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: The live performances of the artistes on the bill kept music fans on their feet throughout the night.

Access Or Assess?

Next, study the following sentence: The coach was able to access the performance of each player prior to selection. The use of 'access' in the sentence is incorrect. The correct word is 'assess'. As a verb, assess means 'to evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of something'. As a verb, access means 'to approach or enter (a place)' as in 'it's not possible to accessprivate facilities in the single rooms'. Therefore, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: The coach was able to assess the performance of each player prior to selection.

Cooperate Or Corporate?

Next, study the following sentence:The gesture forms part of the company's cooperate social responsibilities. In context, the use of 'cooperate' in the sentence is incorrect. The correct word is 'corporate'. It's easy to confuse 'corporate' with 'cooperate'. Corporate means 'relating to a large company or group' or 'of or shared by all the members of a group'. As a verb, cooperate means 'to work jointly towards the same end' or 'assist someone to comply with their requests' as in 'he cooperated with the police to arrest the robbers'. Hence, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: The gesture forms part of the company's corporatesocial responsibilities.

Decent Or Descent?

Next, study the following sentence: The settlers were of British decent. The use of 'decent' in the sentence is wrong. The right word is 'descent'. In fact, both words have completely different meanings. As a noun, descent means 'the origin or background of a person in terms of family or nationality' or 'an act of moving downwards, dropping, or falling' as in 'the plane had gone into a steep descent'. As an adjective, 'decent' means 'conforming with generally accepted standards of respectable or moral behaviour' as in 'a decent clean-living individual'. Besides, it means 'of an acceptable standard; satisfactory' as in 'people need decenthomes'. Therefore, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: The settlers were of British descent.

Teaming Or Teeming?

Last but not least, study the following sentence: Teaming supporters of the party have converged on the premises of the party's headquarters. The use of 'teaming' in the sentence is completely wrong. The correct word is 'teeming'. As an adjective, teeming means 'present in large numbers'. There is no adjective as 'teaming' in English. Hence, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as: Teeming supporters of the party have converged on the premises of the party's headquarters.

Writer's e-mail: [email protected]

By Anthony Kwadwo Kyei

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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