homophonic slurs

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Jul 21 16:34:21 UTC 2007

over on the Language Log, Mark Liberman reports on an Enertainment
Weekly story about Isaiah Washington (late of Grey's Anatomy):


   Washington was not asked to return to Grey's Anatomy next season
after a turbulent year in which he was accused of calling co-star
T.R. Knight a homophonic slur, which he then said publicly back stage
at the Golden Globes in January.

  i found another one from 2004:
   Bill White put on top of Brenda Walker's article the headline:

   "Save The Sierra Club From Homo Jew Takeover:"

   ".....but days later it re-appeared (Mrs. Walker's article) on
Overthrow.com, a website run by a group called White Politics, with a
headline that described Dees using a sexual slur. On Friday, it was
followed by a subsequent article, penned by staff of Overthrow.com,
with a headline that repeated that slur."

   Mrs. Walker, in an interview with all three papers said she had no
idea that her article was literally changed, using a headline topped
with a homophonic slur.   http://www.overthrow.com/lsn/news.asp?

it's hard to tell whether "homophonic" was uttered by Walker or was
introduced by a reporter.  this is potentially important, since there
are three ways you could get "homophonic" for "homophobic":

   1.  inadvertent error in word retrieval (in either speech or writing)

   2.  classical malapropism, in either speech or writing: a mistaken
belief that "homophonic" is the appropriate word

   3.  a typo: B and N are adjacent on the keyboard

a google search on {homophobic homophonic} pulled up a bunch of
examples, probably of different types.  first, some that pretty
clearly look like typos (type 1), because they're single occurrences
in writing in passages where "homophobia" or "homophobic" occurs
several times:

   Because we are all products of our society, most of us are
homophobic, regardless of our sexual orientation. Assume that you are

   I also challenge the word "homophobic" as fear of hobosexuals. I'm
not homophobic--I have no fear of your type, only contempt. And now
you have homophobia to wave around just like the jews have anti-
semenic. So lets get rid of the word homophobia: How about "Homo-
Blyiccch" (gag, choke, vomit)? Sure, you can call me homophonic if
you like but I know what's right and what's wrong. When all you
perverts are in hell it will be a much better place. [letter to
Lavender Network newspaper]

   The most common categories of homophonic incidents witnessed
by ..... Successful strategies to increase the inclination to report
homophobic abuse should ...

   as for who's homophonic, I think that the current turkish
government is certainly homophobic because they referred to Belgium's
publication of the fact that ...


then a reverse substution, one that looks like a classical
malapropism (type 2), albeit an insecure one:

   Girl #1: What's the word for when there's just a voice and a harmony?
   Girl #2: I think that's called "homophobic."
   Girl #1: Really, homophobic?
   Girl #3: Actually it's "homophonic."
   Girl #2: Oh.
   Girl #1: Then what does homophobic mean?


then a report of a pretty clear type 1 case (in speech):

   Police investigating allegations of racist and homophobic offences
have ... But the announcer stumbled over one of the words and said
"homophonic offense".


then one that i can't be entirely sure about.  it comes from a
discussion entitled "Are Chrysler's new Dodge Caliber ads
homophobic?"  this in a comment that doesn't otherwise use either

  I am not condoning discrimination here - just saying that people
need to lighten up. What if I'm a straight guy who likes my yellow
polo shirt and dogs - if I have a small dog collection that I walk
with am I gay?

And I'm not homophonic, or uptight… kind of ironic that you're
calling everyone else uptight.


and another uncertain one, a one-shot occurrence of "homophonic", in
response to a poster who used "homophobic":

   Your party hates gay people, and are offended by cross dressing
(minus the candidate we’re talking about now). So why, if you’re not
homophonic, siding with them?


a similar one from a representative of the BBC, replying to a
complain about (in the words of the complainant) "a homophobic
outburst by a panelist, Charles Collingwood":

   Thank you for your e-mail.

   I understand you felt comments made on 'Just A Minute' broadcast
24 July were homophonic and offensive.

[no further uses of "homophonic" in the reply]


well, there's more, lots more, many of them probably typos.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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