You all are like grammar ninjas. It’s pretty cool. The first half of the quiz I remember from school, but the second half I learned after one of my kids asked, “What do you call words that are spelled the same, but sound different?” I had no clue, so we turned to our good friend Google. Wikipedia turned up an awesome Venn diagram that answered all our questions about words about words.
1. Onomatopoeia – words that sound like what they describe, like “bang!”
2. Ellipses – three periods in a row, used to indicate missing words in a quote, a long pause or a sentence that trails off without a definite end.
3. An oxymoron – two seemingly contradictory adjectives used together, like jumbo shrimp.
4. Malapropism – when you accidentally use a word that changes your statement or question into something funny. (Sorry, there is no elegant way to describe this.) Many Freudian slips are also malapropisms.
5. Synonyms – different words with similar meanings.
6. Antonyms – opposites, like “up” and “down.”
7. Heterographs – words that sound the same, but have different meanings and different spellings, like there/their/they’re.
8. Heteronyms – words that are spelled the same, but sound different and have different meanings, i.e. wind (like a breeze) and wind (the long and winding road).
9. Homophones – words that sound the same, but have different meanings, they may or may not be spelled the same (heterographs are a subset of homophones) – i.e. winding a clock and a winding road.
10. Capitonyms – these are words that have a different meaning if they are capitalized, like August the month and august, meaning majestic.
11. Homonyms – same pronunciation, same spelling, different meaning (the other subset of homophones), like rose (flower) and rose (got up).
12. Homographs – same spelling, different meaning, may or may not be pronounced the same. (Just like homophones are split into homonyms and heterographs, homographs are split into heteronyms and homonyms.)
Bonus – A gerund – I’ll be honest, I put this in because I have never known what the heck a gerund is. According to PoM, our resident expert, “A gerund is the form of a verb, ending in -ing, that acts as a noun. All gerunds end in -ing, but not all words ending in -ing are gerunds. Sometimes they’re present participles.”
Confused by all the -nyms, -graphs and -phones? Here’s the handy Venn diagram from Wikipedia: