Welcome to this edition of Words For Thought, the blog on wordrefiner.com. Like many of the previous blogs we are looking at homophones. Words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings.
I understand how important it is to have an error free manuscript. With over 40 years of experience, I have found that homonyms give almost every writer fits and difficulties. Because we sound words out in our mind, it is easy to write the wrong word. The correctly spelled word in the wrong context will not be flagged by most spell-checkers. Word Refiner is dedicated to uprooting all of these hidden errors and providing your document free of spelling errors that you want and deserve.
Now, onto today’s episode!
These three words have a widely divergent history, the first and third are rooted in Latin, travel to us through Old French and into Middle English. The second word starts in Germanic, goes through Middle English and lands in our figurative laps also. They are all very old and have many miles on the tires.
Vain is a word we are all familiar with. The primary definition is having an excessively high opinion of one’s self, abilities or appearance. I once saw a bumper sticker: “people who think they are know-it-alls are a real pain for those of us that do.” Many of us have been cautioned by elders to not think too highly of ourselves, to refrain from egotism and narcissism. Sometimes that is good advice but not always. The word was highly popularized in the Carly Simon Song “You’re so Vain”, released in 1972. Modesty is the opposite of vanity.
The secondary definition is producing no results, or having no fulfillment. The attempt by the seven year old child to clean the room was in vain.
Vane is very practical, it has nothing to do with the concept of self-worth. Many of us are familiar with weathervanes, they show the direction the wind is blowing from. They are characterized by broad flat surfaces, mounted on a rotating rod, and are usually decorative in nature. A related definition is one of a series of flat blades attached to a shaft or wheel that is spun by the passage of air, water, or some other gas or liquid. Pumps, turbines, and generators all land within this functional definition. Lastly, the flat side of the feathers on an arrow are described with this word.
Vein is another word very familiar to people in healthcare and vampires. A major part of our circulatory system, veins carry the oxygen-depleted blood back to the lungs. We frequently use the term blood vessel, rather than distinguish between arteries and veins. This word also has somewhat similar usage in describing a part of the leaf of a plant, and an insect’s wing.
Geologists, miners and rock hounds also use this word to refer to a fracture in rock that is filled with a particular mineral such as quartz or gold. It can be a layer or a seam and is frequently sought after for gaining wealth.
There they are, three words with identical sounds, unrelated history and definitions. If you choose the wrong word the reader will feel like they hit a section of uncharted rapids in the river of your book. Do all in your power to prevent that from happening, do not give your readers a reason to close your story. Use beta readers, critique partners, proofreaders, editors and Word Refiner to ensure that your work is error free and as smooth as possible.
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed this issue of Homophones Hurt Your Writing on Words For Thought. Follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/wordrefiner , for more alerts about hazardous homophones search for #HomophonesHurtYourWriting on twitter.
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Copyright © 2015 Mark L Schultz
An avid reader and hyper speller. I am a husband, father, and grandfather.
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