On Homonyms and Homophones

Of course, it’s not hard at all to find homophones is English: meet and meat, suite and sweet, I’ll meet you in the  suite and we’ll eat sweet meat, pi and pie, dye and die, know and no, won and one, two, too and to, for, four and fore, eight and ate, wood and would, the list is endless, there are probably hundreds, but few confuse me more than bass and base.

Both spellings, in fact, have more than one definition.  A bass is also a fish but that’s  pronounced with a short a, like badass without the ad, so those two, I guess, are homonyms without being homophones, which sounds an awful lot like homophobes as in the sentence: Chuck, Mike and Doug are homophones.

Base can be a staging location, as in ‘The climbers established a base camp at 3,000 meters.’  If they established a bass camp, they might cause an avalanche.  Also, you have bases in  some sports, notably baseball.  Bass Ball might  make a very cool sport, but  I don’t think it’s actually been invented yet.  Or base can  be a core group of  an organization or whatever, as in ‘Sanders’ base is young and progressive.’

Bass, on the other hand, is a musical term.  It can be an instrument, or a quality of sound, which is very  deep.  Except in the song ‘All about  the bass,’  where it apparently means butt, the part of the body at the base of your spine, and thus appeals to our baser instincts.

And the base line, if you’re talking about music, might actually be the same as the bass line.

I’m not even going to start with lie and lay.  ‘Lie, Lady, Lie’ would have been a terrible song.


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