From: Los Anga-lees
I'm editing the original strip to reflect the correct usage of "homophones", with a doff of the cap to my various professors who e-mailed me. (It's like I'm back in grad school! They keep pulling me back in!)
Here's where my mind went astray. For some reason, I thought that "homonym" was the umbrella or catch-all term encapsulating both homophones and homographs. The Greek suffix "-nym" being "name" I *thought* put it as a classification encapsulating "-phone" ("sound") and "-graph" ("writing"). But alas, my supposition would earn me no supper tonight. Turns out I'm just a moron.
So! To my former professors, a kind thank you...and you shall get no more language classification jokes from me for a while. :)
With respect to those that corrected you, I think they may be factually correct, but not within the context of the strip.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but Arthur got his smarts by Sheldon downloading an Encyclopedia into his brain. I further surmise that a dictionary was also probably included to give him his extensive vocabulary. When I did a definition check of "homonym" after reading the above blog post, the first listing - and hence the most common meaning - was "homophone." Since Arthur got his vocabulary from a dictionary, and the dictionry I checked gave "homophone" as the most common meaning of "homonym," I think the original strip was just fine as it was.
Of course, I don't have a PhD or nothin' fancy like that, so do with that thought what you will.
It's now assonance, isn't it, not rhyme?
Anyway, I think the problem is that in common usage, a homonym is something which is a homograph or a homophone, whereas technically (and more usefully), it's something that is both; something with the same name both sounds and is written the same.
To put it a different way, homonym is a hyponym of homophone and homograph which is often mistaken for their hypernym.
Can you guess what it is yet?
First: I have an M.A. in English and I still make this mistake, which is why my friends tend to point and laugh a lot.
Second: You're absolutely right, it's funnier with "homonyms." Brief insight into why that's true: it's based on the shape of your mouth when you say the words.
Because the "o" sound in "phones" replaces the "ih" sound of "nyms," the word no longer forces a brief smile onto the face of the speaker (yes, you can make the 'ih' sound without the brief smile-like motion, but it's not natural to do so).
Words that are generally judged to be inherently funny are usually ones that involve some combination of letters that cause the edges of the mouth to, briefly, stretch to the sides in the same way that they do when smiling. Because thought and memory are largely based on experiential maps and obscure associations made in those maps, you end up with a process along the incredibly over-simplified lines of:
Saying "KumQUAt" (capitalization on relevant syllable) -> brain saying "hey, I'm smiling" -> brain saying "if I'm smiling, I must be amused/happy." -> brain saying "that word amused me, so it must be funny."
Eventually, the need to actually form words physically for this reaction falls away, because the association of word and humour bypasses that step (or, more accurately, your brain has directly connected the sound to the reaction).
Okay, maybe that wasn't so brief and not really an insight, but I paid a lot of money for my degrees and I'm darn well going to pretend like they're useful for something.
Will there be a quiz after this discussion? Is it open book?
I must say that this thread is a rarity on the internet: witty, yet intelligent.
We're all smarter for reading this.