Call and caul are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and mean different things, which makes them homophones. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language, and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the words to, too and two, or horse and hoarse, are indistinguishable from each other. Pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving. Pronunciation may change even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh. Homophones are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a homophone in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. We will examine the definitions of the two homophonic words call and caul, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.
Call may be used as a noun or a verb. Used as a noun, call may mean 1.) a cry someone makes it order to call attention 2.) a judgement 3.) the particular sound a species of bird or animal makes 4.) contact through the telephone 5.) a demand for action 6.) a powerful attraction 7.) a visit 8.) a challenge in a betting game, such as poker. Used as a verb, call may mean 1.) to cry out in order to call attention, 2.) to make a judgement 3.) to give someone a name or address someone by a name 4.) making a particular cry, especially by an animal or bird 5.) to make contact through a telephone 6.) to demand action 7.) to initiate a powerful attraction 8.) to visit 9.) to challenge in a betting game, such as poker. Related words are calls, called, calling, caller. The word call is derived from the Old Norse word kalla which means to cry out.
Caul may refer to the amniotic sac that surrounds a fetus. Caul may also mean a type of lacy fat that surround the internal organs of certain animals and is used as a casing in cooking. Caul may also refer to a type of close headdress worn in the Middle Ages. The word caul is derived from the French word cale which means cap.
The commander-in-chief called the Labour politician a “stone cold loser,” following his recent criticism of the president. (Newsweek)
If you’re among the 1,074 people locked up this month in Polk County Jail and need to call a loved one or your attorney, a 15-minute phone call will run about $2.25. (The Des Moines Register)
Choughs, the crow of the mountains, call to each other overhead. (The Irish Times)
Caul fat is mostly used as a casing for faggots and sausages, and comes listed under all sorts of exotic-sounding monikers, such as lace fat, crépine and fat netting. (The Guardian)
Little Noah Valasco was born “en caul” – meaning the sac protecting him didn’t burst as it should when he was born. (The Sun)