I started a Homonyms spreadsheet last year to help my Adult Literacy League students learn how the spelling of a word can impact its meaning while not impacting its sound. A shout-out to Claudia who is helping me organize the spreadsheet. She is also converting the data into a Word document so she can add pictures for our more visual learning style students (brilliant idea, Claudia – thank you :). By the way, if any of you would like to help think of common homonyms, let me know – I’ll add you to the Google sheets user list.
While working on the Homonyms sheet, I started another sheet – where the same word (same spelling, same pronunciation) has a different meaning depending on whether it is used as a noun or a verb or an adjective. The nouns versus verbs are of particular interest to me. For example, “bark.” As a noun, it’s the outside of many trees. As a verb, it’s the sound that a dog might make. Who in the world decided to use the same word to mean, in my opinion, two unrelated ideas?!
I have the same opinion for list (noun – a combination of items / verb – to tilt in a particular direction, as my sailboat is listing to starboard) and loaf (noun – a loaf of bread / verb – to goof off) – how are these words related??Why did someone decide to use the same word for these disparate meanings?? Can anyone tell me? 😕
Two of my favorites, though, are in todays’ title – post and toast. It wasn’t that long ago that post, as a verb, was used to describe the act of sending a letter (to “post” a letter). Nowadays, we “mail” a letter, but we still go to the post office and use the United States Postal Service. Post, as a noun, however, is . . . a thick stick? Placed upright, often as a support for something? Does this have anything to do with mailing a letter? And, how about this? Post, as a verb, is also used to describe a horse rider’s sitting and rising from the saddle.
Finally, let’s look at toast. A common noun use is to describe bread that has been cooked until it becomes crispy. In the past couple of weeks, I’m guessing many of you used this word as a verb – to cheer someone or many people. While pondering this apparent lack of a relationship between the noun and verb meanings, I came to realize that the action of toasting was an amazing creation! Toasting has been around for centuries, but it’s nice to know that this activity is still enjoyed by so many humans throughout the world. I am encouraged that humans still enjoy celebrating others, not just themselves.
On that positive and heartwarming note, I send you all best wishes for 2021! 😍
Cheers, Salud, Slainte, Skal, and more! 🍾