Words and Sounds
Count me as one of the people who manage to confuse words in a most curious way. I have always had trouble with when to use “loose” or “lose” until I hit upon the fact that it wasn’t the definition of each word that caused me difficulty. It was the way I pronounced them.
Another difficulty I have is with names. When trying to remember anything, one of the simplest ways for me is to associate it with something else. In try to remember a person’s name, I usually have to say it several times, and associate it with the person’s face, in order to remember. Remembering faces is easier, but names elude me unless I work hard at remembering. Say the person’s name to myself as often as possible while in that person’s presence and while looking at his or her face sometimes works. Still, that’s kind of difficult to do when trying to hold a spontaneous conversation.
Associating a person named Susan to another Susan I know helped. Also associating the person with someone I either liked or disliked, depending upon the conversation at the moment, sometimes works.
Susan was a young oriental girl I met. But how would I remember a typical American name with an oriental girl who was only then learning to speak English? Then an oriental man I once met came to mind. His name was Xzu Zan and it was pronounced like “Su-san.” Xzu Zan being oriental, it was then easy for me to remember Susan, my new oriental friend.
So if I can associate names, I should try it with simple words that are the bane of my writing endeavors. With my incorrect pronunciation of the words “loose” and “lose,” when I repeated “loose/noose” and “lose/lost” I stopped becoming confused. It also helped me to visualize the similarities of the spelling of those four words as I thought about them.
A noose can be loose and has similar sounds. Not having similar sounds but similar meanings is “lose/lost.” If you lose something, it is lost. Similarities exist in each set of words: Five letters in each word in the first example with four in each of the second.
Using this method, also resolved my often incorrect usage of “wretch/retch” and “wretched/retched.” According to the Oxford Dictionary, the meaning of “wretch” is “an unfortunate or contemptible person.” “Wretched” means “in a very unhappy or unfortunate state,” or, “of poor quality.” “Retch” means “to make the sound or movements of vomiting”. “Retched” is simply past tense of “retch.”
Since these two words are only related in sound, it came to me that “wretch” has one more letter then “retch.” Likewise, the pronunciation of “wretched” has two syllables while “retched” sounds like one syllable. When you pronounce these words and pay attention to the syllables, you clearly understand which one should be used in a given situation, but easily mistaken when writing or editing too quickly.
Another example is “who’s/whose.” This one seemed simpler to grasp once I studied it. Anytime there is an apostrophe in a word such as “who’s,” it’s a contraction of two words. Broken down, “who’s” becomes “who is” or “who has.” The usage according to this rule is then simplified and “whose” is used at all other times.
When writing “who’s” or “whose,” read the sentence and see if the meaning is “who is” or “who has” instead of the contracted word. Simply break down the contraction into the two separate words and it becomes clear which should be used.
Proper pronunciation of words and names helps clarify usage in speaking or in the written word.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre.