I’ve always been a word hound and have always had a deep and abiding interest in words and usage. These hints have been gleaned from various readings and experiences – books and blogs are rife with poor or interesting usage. Often I believe the mistakes are simply the lack of critical editing. Mistakes appear as if by magic when typing rapidly; it takes real work to read critically and edit before publishing.
It is good to know the rules but if you don’t know the rules, it is good to be aware of problem areas, so before publishing you can verify your usage. You will be held in higher regard by your readers and seem more credible if your work is not peppered with mistakes.
I had the idea of making a “magic spell” jar for the grandkids for Halloween. Decorate a jar with Halloween colors and images, label it magic spell jar, and include instructions for removing one spell per day. It is important to do one spell per day so the kids do not become overwhelmed or bored. Like magic most of the hints will stay with you if you make a point of using the words two or three times on the day pulled.
So here are some magic spells (more will be forthcoming).
1. Awful, Offal – I wanted to say awful is bad but then realized offal is also bad, in a way.
Awful is a word we use to denote our displeasure with something, usually. However, the word actually boils down to “full of awe” and sometimes it is used that way, even in modern language. Also awful can be used to take the place of “very,” like an awful lot of something. A commonly used oxymoron is awfully nice – an oxymoron is a contradiction of terms and in one usage awful is the opposite of nice.
Offal is bad in a different way, if you don’t like guts and gore. Offal is the viscera, the insides of say a deer, when you hang it and clean it out. Some people eat some of the internal organs. Most do not. You often throw the offal or viscera to the dogs if you do the job at home or wild animals if you field dress it.
Yeah, the offal is awful to see or smell.
2. Bear, Bare
Bear is a big furry animal. Bear is also used to mean carry. It can be physical or emotional. The donkey is used to bear the camping equipment (physical). But you have to grin and bear it when something goes wrong. (Emotional.)
Bare is without clothing or adornment, also without the usual accouterments. Such as a bare room (without furniture).
I saw a sleeveless tee shirt punning these two words. It read: I have the right to bare arms. It could, of course, mean I have a right to wear this sleeveless shirt – but if you spelled bare as bear, it could also mean I have a right to carry a weapon (arms is another word for weapons). Another pun on these words is “Grin and bare it,” which makes me picture a goof grinning while dropping his drawers. Sometimes people expose their bare butts and then run through a crowd. That’s what was called streaking years ago. You could go one step further and say “bear butts” indicating a furry posterior.
3. Birth, Berth
Birth is related to getting born. There is an “I” in it – like “I” was born, not hatched.
Berth is a bed (usually on a boat or train) or berth can be where a boat is kept (sort of a bed for a boat). It starts with BE like Bed.
4. Breath, Breadth, Breathe
These words don’t all sound the same.
Breath you know. It is what you do all day and all night, but you are rarely conscious of it if everything is working fine.
Breadth sounds a lot like breath but there should be just a hint of the d sound in it. This refers to how wide something is, like an object or an idea or a concept.
Breathe is pronounced with a long ee sound in the middle. Breeeth. When someone tells you to breathe (like a doctor or nurse) they want you to take a breath. If you forget the “e” at the end, it has a different meaning.
5. Cue, Queue – Both are pronounced like the letter “Q”
Cue is the spelling used for a pool cue or for a prompt to an actor, like she was there to cue the actors who forgot their lines onstage
Queue is not used much on this side of the Atlantic. The British queue up to buy tickets and other things. The queue was too long at the grocery, so he went home without the milk and bread. Queue is an oddly spelled word. It looks as if it should be pronounced cue-you, but it is not.
Print this and cut into five notes, put in your decorated jar. You now have the beginnings of a magic spell jar. More spells will be posted soon.