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Which witch is which?
Because people out there need bread, bakers get up at extraordinarily early hours to knead their dough so we can enjoy it fresh-baked at breakfast.

Which witch is which?

Which witch is which challenges you on homophones.

English has many 'accidental groups' of words that sound alike and may cause confusion (or give rise to Puns, good or less good!). How sharp are you at picking out the similar-sounding ones and recognising their meanings?

1.
Which of these contains a mis-spelling of the common word?
Our plane came down in to land out of a clear night sky over London, and we could see all the landmarks lit up.
Please send any important documents by Registered Post, but in a plain brown envelope.
Salisbury Plain is a good example of a large flat expanse of land within the British Isles; often, as here, such formations are on the floodplain of a river.
Carpenters use a plain to flatten off the surface of a piece of wood.
Although 'plain' as in Answer 3 is a flat formation, the tool used by joiners to achieve a similar smooth effect is a Plane (this word means a flat surface in geometry, hence the more-or-less flat wing surfaces of an aircraft, e.g. the tail-planes, and indeed also the hydroplanes of a submarine which do a somewhat comparable job).
Metaphorically we also sometimes refer to something being 'on a higher plane', e.g. that Calculus is rather 'above' most people whose Maths only reached about GCSE standard.
'Plane' (spelt thus) is also the name of the species of tree fairly widely seen in London and other city streets.
2.
Which of the four similar-sounding words here is NOT a noun?
Most metals are obtained by smelting from the ore which is mined out of the ground.
When you go on a river cruise in London, and see the Tower and pass under Tower Bridge, you cannot help being struck with awe at the scale and history of it all.
Would you prefer the chicken or the fish this evening?
The boat had vanished without trace, but a single oar was found floating downstream later in the day.
Yes: little old 'or' is a conjunction; the rest are all nouns.
3.
In which of these sentences is the like-sounding word an Adverb?
I always feel a bit silly sending cards to people for important occasions like weddings and funerals; I mean, what on earth can you write that won't sound weak or silly?
The key thing is not just to do a thing well, but to do it right.
Many British people have the surname 'Wright': it means 'someone who makes things', such as a wheelwright or cartwright, cheesewright, plowright (originally ploughwright) ... or indeed a playwright (this latter, containing an obvious pun ~ when you consider it for a moment!).
Key occasions in a person's life, such as their formal name-giving as a baby, their transition into adulthood, maybe their marriage, and in due course their funeral, are known to anthropologists and sociologists as 'rites of passage'.
'Right' can also be a noun (as in 'human rights') and an adjective ('the right hand'), even a verb ('you need to right a capsized vessel as soon as possible'); but here it is an adverb, describing the manner of doing an action.
4.
In which of these sentences is the similar-sounding word NOT a verb?
She saw through his plan straight away.
The engineers then saw through this layer to reveal the inner core.
I wouldn't mention holidays to her if I were you: that's been a bit of a sore point with her since the year before last.
It can be a wonderful experience to attend a full sung service in a cathedral, and hear the children's voices soar up into the ancient roofing.
'Sore' is an adjective, used here metaphorically of course.
'Saw' in Answer 1 is the plain past form of 'see', but in Answer 2 it is the present form of 'to saw' ( = to cut with a saw, as a carpenter would do).
'Soaring' (Answer 4) sounds practically identical but is in no sense related to any of the previous words.
5.
In only ONE of these sentences, the apparent 'echo pair' does not work correctly: which one?
During a Mental Maths test, only the teacher is allowed to speak numbers aloud.
This photograph shows the planes all arrayed on the ground, prior to taking off on a raid.
When we speak of leaving a door ajar, as it happens, the gap between the door and its lintel would typically be just about wide enough to pass a small object through, such as a jar of jam, but not a complete human being.
'Keep alert: Britain needs lerts'.
There is (so far as we know) no such thing as a 'lert' (Answer 4); so this is one of those rather silly puns that ought to work, but the joke ~ such as it is ~ is that it doesn't.
6.
In which of these sentences is the word that LOOKS as though it should sound like others, actually pronounced differently?
He rowed the boat out into the middle of the lake, and there, he quietly went down on one knee in classic fashion to propose marriage to her.
Carry on towards the end of the road until you pass the pillar-box, then it's in the next street on your left.
I'm hardly surprised they are getting divorced: last time we were there, they rowed almost constantly about the most trivial things.
'Why did the chicken only walk halfway across the street?'
'Because it was a Rhode Island Red.'
'Rowed' in Answer 1 is the past form of the verb 'to row' (i.e. to propel a boat, using oars ~ see Q.2 A.4 above!); in Answer 3 it is the past form of 'to row' as in 'to make an embarrassing and noisy fuss about something' (here, it rhymes with 'how').
Your author was once somewhat disconcerted to attend a happy wedding where one set of seats was marked with a sign, 'FAMILY ROW'. Obviously in this context it referred to a 'row' of seats side-by-side (rhymes with 'no'), rather than indicating a major argument 'to rhyme with 'now'), despite the identical spelling.
The chicken joke (in Answer 4), and numerous variations, is a standard English verbal institution. The pun here is on the American placename, Rhode Island (sounding like a 'road island', i.e. a little raised refuge halfway across a main street, where pedestrians crossing can pause before tackling the second stream of traffic).
7.
In which of these sentences is the word that LOOKS as though it should sound like others, actually pronounced differently?
Sebastian is delighted to have led the team into the next phase of its expansion, before moving to a similar role in one of our overseas operations.
No dogs are permitted inside the cemetery, except guide and other assistance dogs which should be kept on a lead at all times.
In the good old bad old days, children were surrounded by compounds of lead, from car exhaust fumes to the paint on their school radiators and playground equipment.
Some people in this world are more easily led, or indeed misled, than others.
The 'lead' (or sometimes 'leash'), along with the present form of its related verb, is pronounced with a long E; all the others are short, despite the '-ea-' spelling in the chemical element Lead (= 'Pb' to chemists, from the same Latin root that we have Plumber, originally someone who worked with water-piping that was made of lead. There are British-made water-pipes in the ruins of Herculaneum, apparently ... how about that for an example of the European market under the Romans, 2,000-odd years ago?)
8.
In ONE of the following sentences, the similar-sounding words have been written in each other's place by mistake: which one?
The poor girl was practically as pale as the milk in her pail.
I tried the diet; but in my experience, it can be a very long and dispiriting weight before you begin to lose any significant amount of wait.
Even nowadays, more of the employees of the Royal Mail are male than female.
'Any idea how we can manage to untie this knot?'
'I'm afraid not.'
In Answer 2, 'weight' and 'wait' are reversed.
In Answer 4 there is the further echo of a rather poor pun on 'a frayed knot' (i.e. one in which the ropes themselves are worn and 'frayed', making it even harder to untie cleanly or quickly).
9.
In only ONE of the following sentences is the pun-word a Noun: which one?
We hope you will find you now have everything you need for the trip.
Because people out there need bread, bakers get up at extraordinarily early hours to knead their dough so we can enjoy it fresh-baked at breakfast.
'It's outrageous that she should be the one facing court on an assault charge: after all, he was the one who was trying to force his unwanted attentions onto her ~ but, as she'd been taught to do in any such desperate situation, she kneed him in the groin and he could barely even run away.'
Even just a few days after that awful storm in the Philippines, the BBC's 'Children in Need' appeal was able to raise a magnificent total again this year.
'Need' can certainly be a noun as well as a verb ('A friend in need is a friend indeed' ... or, as some cynic once commented, viewing the friendship from its other end and a rather less charitable perspective, 'A friend in need is a ~-ing nuisance'.)
Meanwhile 'knee' is usually a noun, but there is a verb 'to knee', and that's what is called for in Answer 3. One almost feels it should have a third 'e' in it, but two are enough (cf. 'freed, agreed' etc.).
10.
All but ONE of the punning pairs (or groups) here work acceptably in English: which is the weak or mis-handled example?
Unless (or until) the rain comes in, you can see the island out there across the sea; it's one of the most beautiful seens to be scene in this part of the British Isles.
A good sailor is one who has been taught to coil any unused ropes neatly ready for action; and meanwhile, even more importantly, to keep all active ropes on their vessel good and taut.
The attacking troops fought long and hard until they had surrounded and captured the fort.
Even with the might of modern medicine behind you, and try as you might to avoid potential infection, the chance remains of a sudden and massive allergic reaction to something as tiny as a common mite.
'Scene' and 'seen' are reversed in Answer 1. A good poet would (or should) certainly think twice before writing anything as weak as:
'It was a calm and tranquil scene. / The prettiest I'd ever seen.'
(That somehow goes beyond the idea of rhyme and comes out the far side, not having satisfied!)
We hope you will have been making good use of a substantial dictionary to disentangle any other rare, unfamiliar or otherwise potentially troublesome usages. And please don't now get us started on 'red' and 'read' (in its past tense/sense)!
Author:  Ian Miles

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