Homonyms

SCHWEIZ, GLOCKE, GLOCKEN, GLOCKENGUSS,

I love when people inadvertenly use homonyms of words with completely different meanings producing a comic effect.  If you need multiple examples look up the hashtag on twitter #heardnotread.  They are real life examples of things people have written down, spelling them wrong, because they heard them spoken, but did not think through what they were hearing.

Bells ring.  When you make a bell it is “tuned” to a note.  The way you tune a bell is to take metal off on a lathe.  A tuner matches the bell to its “true” tone and grinds away the metal until the bell “rings true”.  We use the phrase “to ring true” to assess if something is on point or if it is a bit off.  I might assess a business plan for an investment and if I think something does not seem right, but I can’t exactly put my finger on it, I might say that something about this proposal does not “ring true”.

A bank manager assessing a loan application might look at a person, their education, their career, their house location, the car they drive, and feel that something about the person does not ring true.  The person in front of them does not match what you expect from the details supplied.  Something is “off”.  For the bank manager this represents a risk.

When cash registers were invented they were a form of control on staff theft.  Before the arrival of the cash register all pricing had to be simple, because sales of multiple items had to be added up either in your head, or on a piece of paper.  With simple maths a dishonest employee could manipulate sales to cheat the shop owner or the customer and pocket cash.  With an automatic cash register the shop owner could set complex prices involving fractions of units such as old money prices like 1s 4 1/2 d which is one shilling (12 pence) and four and a half pence, so 16 and a half pence.  If the next item is thruppence farthing (3 and a quarter of a penny) you can see that the maths begin to get complicated.

As a further staff control the register manufacurers introduced a further feature.  A bell that rang each time a sale item was added.  The shop owner could lurk behind a shelf and make sure that the number of rings on the register tallied to the items in the basket, so the clerk was not handing out freebies to friends and family.

From the introduction of the cash register we got the concept of “ringing up” a sale.  And some clerks would use a homonym of ring true and say something like “if you come over to this register I will ring you through”.  Ring true – ring through.  Sounds the same.  Totally different meaning.

Then the phone was invented, along with switchboards to connect calls.  An operator connecting your call would usually say something like “I’ll put you through now” but some also said, because the phone used to have a bell “I’ll ring you through”.

Now we have three meanings for ring true/through.

Then someone decided to attach buzzers to automatic doors.  You arrive at an apartment block and call the resident on the intercom.  To let you in they need to unlock the front door automatically.  They might say “I’ll buzz you in” or they sometimes say “I’ll ring you through”.  Doors have bells.  Bells ring.  Ring through.

When it becomes funny for me is when I get an email from someone about a business case and they say “What do you think on this?  Something doesn’t ring through for me.”

For Whom the Bell Tolls; by John Donne

No man is an island,
entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee.

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