Interlingual Homophones


There are words which are pronounced the same as other words but differ in meaning or origin; these words are known as homophones. They are usually found within one language (e.g. carrot and karat) but they can cross language barriers; although they do not often exactly match across languages – as there always seem to be some slight deviation in how various sounds are pronounced – interlingual homophones do exist and can, potentially, cause all sorts of confusion.

  • εκεί / aquí
    In Greek, there. In Spanish, here.
  • ναι / nej
    In Greek, yes. In Swedish, no.
  • pig / pigg
    In English, mammalian species of the genus Sus. In Swedish, alert.
  • say / sé
    In English, to speak. In Spanish, I know.
  • tack / tak
    In Swedish, thank you. In Polish, yes.
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Freedom of Speech Anecdote


When Dr Samuel Johnson had finished his great lexicography, the first real English dictionary, he was visited by various delegations of people to congratulate him including a delegation of London’s respectable womanhood who came to his parlour in Fleet Street and said ‘Doctor, we congratulate you on your decision to exclude all indecent words from your dictionary.’ Whereupon he said ‘Ladies, I congratulate you on your persistence in  looking them up.’

The Authority Fallacy


‘A lot of fallacious forms of argument cluster around the use of “authorities”. It is often necessary in argument to make use of some kind of authority – if only because we want to refer to facts and findings. But authorities can also be used as a way to bully opponents by suggesting that in failing to agree with some venerated source they must themselves be weak-minded, ignorant or wildly and dangerously at odds with common standards.’

– “Can you spot a rhetorical fallacy?” The Guardian, 13 September 2013

Incomplete Intelligibility


‘In the language which is spoken when one expresses oneself, there lies an average intelligibility; and in accordance with this intelligibility the discourse which is communicated can be understood to a considerable extent, even if the hearer does not bring himself into such a kind of Being towards what the discourse is about as to have a primordial understanding of it. We do not so much understand the entities which are talked about; we already are listening only to what is said-in-the-talk as such. What is said-in-the-talk gets understood; but what the talk is about is understood only approximately and superficially. We have the same thing in view, because it is in the same averageness that we have a common understanding of what is said.’

Being and Time by Martin Heidegger, tr. John Macquerrie and Edward Robinson, Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1962, I.5, §35 (H.167), p. 212

On Language, Politics and Reality


“Language has always been important in politics, but language is incredibly important to the present political struggle. Because if you can establish an atmosphere in which information doesn’t mean anything, then there is no objective reality.

– Stephen Colbert