Tuesday, 12 July 2016


A journey into the wonderful world of words is simply amazing, for, we could come out with some exciting explorations.

“Wear your shoes, Rishab, it’s getting late for school,” I called out to my little son, who, not so long ago, was still studying in a KG school. He immediately asked me, “Which wear Amma, “hakkolo” wear or “elli” where?” I was taken aback for a moment, for, the thought of these little children, even as they are learning to weave the alphabets into words, have already got into the rigmarole of English language. It was yet to dawn on him that there is yet another kind of “ware” too.

Before we begin to clear these and many such doubts that crop up in the minds of children, it’s time to go gallivanting into the World of Words. Let us begin the first lap of our tour by going back to the example of “hakkolo” wear, “elli” where and another kind of ware, which refers to a specified kind of article. We find endless list of such words in English where two or more words can have the same sound though they spell and mean differently. Words of this kind are called HOMOPHONES, which in Greek means ‘having same sound’. More examples of Homophones are Hare-Hair, Sea-See, Know-No, To-Two-Too, etc.

Now begins the second lap of our journey. One day, while I was in a workshop, waiting for the delivery of my vehicle, a young boy, who had come to get his bicycle tyre mended, pointed to the thin rod radiating from the wheel and asked what it is called, to which the repairer, busy with his job, muttered something. Unable to understand the repairer’s response, the boy asked the same question to his father. His father said it is part of a wheel.
“Yeah, I know, but what is it called?” pestered the boy.  
“I said, it is part of a wheel”, pat came the father’s reply.
Little did the boy know, that, the clue to the answer lay in the father’s reply.
Well, the answer is a five-lettered word that has two meanings and both the meanings are there in the father’s reply to his son i.e., “I said, it is part of a wheel.” Can you guess the word? Yes, you guessed it right. The word is SPOKE because SPOKE means “said” and it also means “part of the wheel.” How many more such words can you find and what are they called? Words of this kind i.e., words that spell and sound the same, but can have more than one meaning are aplenty and are called HOMONYMS.
Let’s take a quick look at a few more Homonyms.
Unable to bear the cacophony created by students in a class, a teacher announced to the students “Only those of you who are well-behaved and attentive in the classroom can sit in my class. Others who do nothing can go out.” Can you think of a word that can mean “Others” as well as “who do nothing.” Well, the answer is REST because Rest means others and can also mean doing nothing.
Similarly, we can think of “The skin of a tree sounding like a dog” as BARK; “A relative in a hospital” as a SISTER; “Teach about this mode of transport” as TRAIN etc.

We now move on to the next lap of our tour. If Homonym means a word that has more than one meaning, what then is a synonym? Word having nearly the same meaning as another in the same language is called a SYNONYM. Examples of Synonyms can be
Dealer, Seller, Trader;
Client, Customer, Buyer;
Void, Vacuum; Scarce, Sparse;
Result, Effect;
Total, Sum and the list goes on …..
It would be worthy to mention at this point that these types of words, though similar in meaning, may differ in usage, depending on the context.

We are now reminded of words having totally opposite meanings with one another, which are called ANTONYMS. Words like
Tall x Short;
Light x Heavy;
Light x Dark;
Buy x Sell, etc.

After Homophones and Homonyms, Synonyms and Antonyms, we now come to last lap of our journey. Let us pause for a while to find out what WOW means and what are such words called. WOW stands for World of Words. It is a word formed from the first letter of each word in the phrase “World Of Words.” Such a word that is formed from the initial letters of words in a phrase is called ACRONYM. To list a few,
PM – Prime Minister,
WHO – World Health Organisation,
WWW – World Wide Web,
SCUBA – Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus,
VIBGYOR – each alphabet representing one of the colours of the rainbow, etc.

However, Acronym should not be mistaken for ABBREVIATION which means a shortened contracted form of a word or phrase, used to represent the whole.
Take for example the word STD. When used as an Acronym, STD can mean “Straight Trunk Dialing”, but when used as an abbreviation, it can mean “Standard.” To quote more examples of abbreviations,
The word “Adjective” can be abbreviated to ADJ, Subject – SUB, Serial Number – Sl. No., etc. Perusal of a dictionary that gives a complete list of abbreviations used in the book may probably be a good beginning to understand more about abbreviations.

Before we end our journey, let me give you a puzzle.
Unscramble the word MILES to get another word that means “an expression of the face indicating pleasure or amusement.” (You can find the answer at the end of this article.)
What is the term used to describe a word or sentence formed by rewriting (in a different order) the letters of another word or sentence? It is called ANAGRAM.
Solving Word Jumbles and Crosswords are some of the many ways that surely help one become an expert at handling Anagrams.

There are yet another kind of words that spell the same but when sounded differently gives a totally different meaning. For example,
MINUTE can mean the sixtieth part of an hour but when pronounced differently means extremely small in size.

Having got an insight into the complexity that surrounds this beautiful language of English, don’t you think we have made a fruitful trip? You too can take a tour of WOW!
and discover the Wonder of Words anytime, anywhere, alone or with friends by breezing through books, delving into dictionaries, embedding in encyclopedia, getting hooked to the ‘Net’ or by simply fishing through the vast ocean of knowledge and information that keeps staring at us. All we need to do is to just keep our eyes and ears wide open to see, hear and enjoy a wide gamut of words whirling in the world around us.

The answer, by the way, is SMILE. Got it? WOW! 

 Mangala Madhu Chand