I hate 'em. I just hate 'em.

I must have been asleep, a circumstance not all that far from the realm of possibility if you'd have asked most of my teachers, the day S'ster Mary Roberta was discussing ''homonyms.''

Those are the supercilious, usually single-syllabled words that sound exactly the same, but are usually spelled and always mean something completely different.

Of course I may not have been sleeping at all when the topic came up in class. Chances are I was just plain goofing off the day the subject was broached.

Fulfilling my destiny as Corpus Christi class clown required that I spend an awful lot of my time entertaining the rest of the student body. It was a job the nuns seemed to think I was more than up to back in my day. As I recall there wasn't a lot of tears over at the convent the day they found out I was leaving school a year early to join the Army. There was that time I and Wells decided to do a little extra electrical work on the school's bell system. I believe we ended up rigging the class bells to go off about every seven minutes or so. It took 'em a couple of days to straighten that mess out.

As my father always told me, if you can't be talented, have friends who are.

Here -- or should that be ''hear''? -- I go again getting off the subject. If I remember correctly, and I'm sure that I do -- or should that be ''dew''? -- it was S'ster Mary Roberta who once embarrassed the coolness out of me by -- or ''buy''? -- commanding my presence in her classroom, during an afternoon class.

Seems I'd wandered off in an artistic muse this one day in English class and drew an almost flawless guitar player with a terrific Beatle hair -- or should that be ''hare''? -- do. S'ster Mary Roberta had me summoned from another class and then she made me clean the top of a desk while a group of giggling freshmen girls provided the audience. Well, as I tried at the time to explain in vain -- or should that be ''vein,'' or is that ''vane''? -- the Beatles are an English group. It didn't help the case for the defense, not one iota. I still had to be humiliated and spend an extra hour in detention. Come to think of it, that's probably what I was doing, drawing on a desk top, when ''homonyms'' came up.

I've spent my whole professional life -- actually my entire life -- fighting a losing battle against the dreaded ''homonym.'' Why in the name of William Shakespeare, or who or whomever else was responsible for -- or ''four''? -- this tongue of ours -- or was that ''hours''? -- did we have to come up with a language that had so -- or ''sew? -- many words with several different meanings and spellings that sound exactly alike. Like there -- or should I say ''their''? -- are a total of ''too'' ''two'' many ''tos'' in this dialect of ours, which is, I believe, the correct usage and spelling of one of those tricky suckers right there -- or was that ''they're''?

You know -- or ''no'' -- it's enough to drive a guy to drink. Maybe that's why I've known so -- or ''sew'' -- many journalists who imbibe. At any rate, you get the picture.

Let me say something right -- or ''write'' or was that ''wright''? -- here -- or ''hear,'' or whatever -- about homonyms.

If there (their) are (our) at least two (to) -- here (hear) we (wee) go again -- different usages of any similar-sounding term in the English language, I will invariably use (you'se, just seeing if you're, or ''your'' still paying attention) the wrong one -- or ''won.''

Actually, I should have gone into broadcasting, where -- or ''wear'' -- a fella can use any word he likes without fear of crossing the bounds of propriety in the homonym department.

That's why I have so little respect for broadcasters. How tough can it be popping throat lozenges, putting on a shirt, tie, suit coat over your jogging shorts and paying your orthodontist's bill on time and keeping your weekly appointment at the hair salon?

Then you just show up a half-hour before air time, punch a few 30-second news spots in phonetically, and pull down the big bucks. There -- or their -- are a whole -- or hole -- lot of ways to say so -- or sew -- many different words in this language of ours. Now I know -- or no -- you were really expecting me to tack on another ''hours'' on that last sentence, weren't ya?

But, contrary to what S'ster Mary Roberta might have tried to make people believe, even my soul -- or is that ''sole''? -- isn't beyond redemption. Dam-it. Or did I forget an ''n'' in there (their) some(sum)place? You know, it's getting so's a guy can't even swear anymore without consideration of his homonyms.

That's all right. You know what I (eye) meant, don'tcha?

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online June 14, 2000

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