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Dense Homonyms

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I think I have discovered a sentence with the greatest density of differently spelled homonyms possible, but please if you come up with something better.

A homonym is one of two or more words that sound the same (regardless of how they're spelled) but have different meanings, and English is rife with them, which is another reason I think it must be a very difficult language to learn.

The ultimate homonym, which you can read more about here, is the word set.  Tens of thousands of lesser examples abound, from A to Z.

  • About can be an adjective, an adverb, and a preposition.

  • Zipper can be a verb ("Please zipper your jacket") and a noun ("But the zipper is broken").

Set and about and zipper are different, however, from the rarer sets of homonyms that are also spelled differently.  Ad and add, based and baste, cede and seed, dear and deer, eight and ate, faint and feint, gait and gate, hair and hare, I and eye, jam and jamb, kernel and colonel, lam and lamb, made and maid, nay and neigh, one and won, pail and pale, quay and key, rap and wrap, sacks and sax, tail and tale, ugli and ugly, vain and vane, wade and weighed, xu and sue, you and ewe, and on and awn, you get the idea.

Below is what I think is the densest possible collection of differently spelled homonyms that forms a legitimate and sensible sentence.  But before I announce it, first let me set it up so you can apprehend one possible set of circumstances.

Among the parents who've dropped off their kids at summer camp are Mr. and Mrs. Smith and their friends, Al and Elizabeth.  Everyone's gathered in a circle to hear the cabin assignments.  The Smiths' kid's name is called, and he's assigned to the Black Bear cabin.  Then, just as Al and Elizabeth's twins' names are called, Mr. Smith is distracted by a particularly comely camp counselor and he doesn't hear where the twins were assigned.

He whispers to Mrs. Smith, "I know our kid is going to the Black Bear cabin.  Where were Al and Elizabeth's kids assigned?"

Mrs. Smith replies, "Their two, they're to there too."

I dare you to invent a legitimate, even if strained, sentence that has a denser collection of homonyms.  (And yes, I agree, it would be more nearly perfect if it weren't spoiled by that comma.)

By density I mean the ratio of homonymic words to all the words.  For example, "I ate eight doughnuts today" has a density ratio of 2 to 5, or only 40%.  "I ate eight doughnuts" has a density ratio of 50%, and "I ate eight" has a respectable ratio of 67%.  My example has a density ratio of 6 to 6, or 100%.

(Another factor must surely be the sheer volume of words.  "I eye," a legitimate sentence, is clearly not as impressive as "Aye, I eye," but I haven't figured out how to score that factor yet.)

I think the "Their two" example is noteworthy because every word in the sentence is a homonym and there are six of them.  But more noteworthy, I think, is that each word is part of not a mere pair but a trio of words.  It seems to me that three homonyms each for each of two words is more impressive than two homonyms each for each of three words.

Here's another extreme example, this time using only one word but using it with not two or three but four spellings.  A wedding planner has used the wrong date on the invitations, and the bride says, "Write right, rite wright."

Is this desperately strained?  Yes.  But is it a proper sentence that makes sense?  Yes again.

Are there any other sets of four homonyms that are spelled differently?  Are there any sets of five?

If you're interested in this idea of density with regard to anagrams, where the same set of letters makes a sentence using different words, go here for a full six-pack.

And thanks go to BARRY HALDIMAN for bringing to my attention the remarkable word triangle, which can anagram to alerting, altering, integral and relating.  I will soon begin trying to figure out how to score these too.  For example, is a set of six seven-letter words better than a set of five eight-letter words?

If you have any answers or better examples, please .


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