When I was in film school, I wrote a short screenplay called Shear Madness about a sheep and a hairdresser who was waiting to hear if she had breast cancer. It was a strange, dark little serio-comedy; probably a good thing it didn’t go further than paper. What interested me was playing with various takes on the words shear/sheer and madness.
I had to look up the terms for this kind of word play, which opened up a whole new esoteric world. According to Wikipedia: “In linguistics, a homonym is, in the strict sense, one of a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings. Thus homonyms are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling, regardless of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, regardless of their spelling). The state of being a homonym is called homonymy.” Try saying that three times fast! Homophones that are spelled differently are called heterographs. Confused yet?
In that weird cyclical nature of life, shear/sheer and madness – in all their heterographic and homonymic splendor – have come up again 17 years later as I find myself pondering plywood and wool for my tiny house. Continue reading