The story of the eight bears

Homonyms must surely be one of the quirks of the English language, resulting in equal measures of amusement and frustration. Because we’re writers and a bit geeky about words, we try to find those most extreme examples, of which the word ‘bear’ has 8 different meanings.

When we investigate the origins of the meanings of bear, we find roots from Old English, West Germanic, Dutch, Indo-European, Greek and Latin languages. Even to native English-speakers, homonyms must be read within the context of the sentence to understand if we are asking the reader to bear left at the bend; checking they can bear the heavy load of their backpack that bears their favourite brand, hoping to spot the grizzly bear.

What about that the lumbering bear of a man who was concerned about the bear market, asking his friends to bear with him whilst being unable to bear to consequences of his decisions?

This is where proof reading and editing comes to the fore, especially with the close friend of the homonym – the homophone – not be so easily spotted prior to pushing that all-important ‘publish’ button. We assume that the last thing a company wants to ask a frustrated customer to do is to ‘bare with us….’

Here at RSK, we aim to make complex topics easy to read, with special consideration for our international clients. It may be tempting to pepper your prose with literary techniques (see what we did there?) but the most recent research from LinkedIn found that the most popular articles are those that are easy to read.

Homonym: two or more words with the same spelling but different meaning

Homophone: two or more words with the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling.