Your First Compliment Was Complementary.

I’ll be quite glad when this post is completed because that will mean the tedious “intro” phase of this blog is done. Plus, I’ll have happily met all self-imposed deadlines.

My short writing bio: I wrote my first manuscript at age 5 and titled it “The Bears Go on a Picnic.” The first chapter was read aloud over the phone to my ever-patient first-grade teacher Ms. Gamble and she pronounced it “wonderful”—my first brush with the unsentimental eye of the professional critic. To this day, “The Bears” remains incomplete, but I think I’ll leave it that way so as to add some mystery to my early years when the archivists sift through my work. But between you and me, it was Little Bear who ate all the cookies, not Daddy Bear as the narration was beginning to imply.

And I’ve been writing ever since.

Today, I want to share some words that really annoy the bejeezus out of me: homonyms. For those unaware, homonyms are words that sound exactly the same, mean something utterly different or (more annoyingly) embarrassingly similar, and to top it all off, are spelled bass-ackward from each other. Yea, English.

Here are some of my tops, but as I continue to blog I’ll probably sprinkle in these annoying beasts for everyone’s edification. Because, yes, I consider learning the differentiation of words to be an education of moral and occasionally religious proportion. And I can totally start a sentence with “because.” Why? Because.

The worst offender of all:

AffectI will affect your impression of me, as too much writing about linguistics will make me appear pompous.
Effect— Appearing pompous is an effect of writing too much about linguistics.

This comes up in my job all the time:

Peddling— By peddling this blog shamelessly in the tagline of my e-mail, I hope to gain some Web traffic.
Pedaling— Pedaling my bike to work would also be a way to increase my Web traffic, as I’d get hit by a car on my first day of bike-commuting and be forced to telecommute, resulting in me checking my blog all day.

This one can just shove off, too:

Compliment— I consider it quite a compliment that three people have started reading my blog, and only one of them was bullied into it.
Complement— I think adding those readers’ blogs to my list of favorite sites would be a nice complement to what my blog has to offer—which is mostly just me rattling off.

That’s it for now, because after all, three is my magic number. And anyone wanting to check out more miserable brats of the English language can find a great list at Alan Cooper’s Homonyms. And I can totally start a sentence with “and.” Why? And.