Tag Archives: oronym

An ocean worth pondering

On Wednesday I promised a post on oronyms. I intend to deliver, but first you might want to be sure you’ve had your coffee.

An oronym is a string of words that sounds very much like another, often as a result of sounds running together. For example, “ice cream” sounds like “I scream.” I believe many misunderstood lyrics, or mondegreens, come from oronyms.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, of “You might be a redneck” fame, in at least one routine, uses oronyms to poke fun at country folk. Using the word “initiate,” he says, “My wife ate two sandwiches; initiate a bag o’ tater chips.” He sums up the size of his live audience by saying, “Mayonnaise a lot of people here tonight.”

When we talked about mondegreens back in April, a reader brought to my attention the work of Howard L. Chace, who re-wrote “Little Red Riding Hood,” using oronyms. It begins something like this:

Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage, honor itch offer lodge, dock, florist. Disk ladle gull orphan worry putty ladle rat cluck wetter ladle rat hut, an fur disk raisin pimple colder Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.

Wan moaning, Ladle Rat Rotten Hut’s murder colder inset. “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, heresy ladle basking winsome burden barter an shirker cockles. Tick disk ladle basking tutor cordage offer groinmurder hoe lifts honor udder site offer florist. Shaker lake! Dun stopper laundry wrote! Dun stopper peck floors! Dun daily-doily inner florist, an yonder nor sorghum-stenches, dun stopper torque wet strainers!”

If you’d like to find out how the story ends, and if oronyms strike your fancy, you might be interested in Howard L. Chace’s book,  Anguish Languish, in which you can also read all about “Guilty Looks Enter Tree Beers” and “Oiled Murder Harbored.”

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Word Nymph’s ’nym words

Yesterday’s auto-antonym is just one in a large class. We already know about synonyms, homonyms, antonyms, pseudonyms, and acronyms. As of yesterday, we can also name a few auto-antonyms, or contranyms.

Did you know there are literally dozens of other ’nyms?

Just a few examples:

Aptronym. An aptronym is a name that describes or aptly suits its owner. German Psychiatry Professor Jules Angst. BBC Meteorologist Sara Blizzard. Here in the Washington area we have a podiatrist named Dr. Ronald Footer and, believe it or not, an OB/GYN, Dr. Harry Beaver.

Capitonym. A capitonym is a word that changes meanings when it is capitalized—Lent and lent, Polish and polish, Job and job, May and may and on and on.

Toponym. Toponyms take on their names based on where they originated. Examples include champagne, cashmere, and perhaps the two most famous, hamburger and frankfurter.

There’s another one I plan to share another time because it’s just too fun to lump in with other ’nyms. It’s the oronym. I’d describe the oronym as a cross between a homonym and a mondegreen. I’ll show you why later.

In the meantime, are there other ’nyms you’d like to explore or share?

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