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Liar vs lyre

  • Liar and lyre are 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 are a group of words with different spellings, the same pronunciations, and different meanings. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language, and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that sound the same. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers 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, and learning words in English by studying a dictionary of the English language. 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 in English vocabulary, 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 different meanings of the homophonic words liar and lyre, the word origin of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.


     

    A liar is someone who does not tell the truth, someone who spreads falsehoods or whose word can not be trusted. A liar tells lies. The word liar is derived from the Old English word leogere, which means liar or hypocrite. The plural form of liar is liars.

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    A lyre is an ancient, stringed instrument constructed in the shape of a U and strummed or plucked with the fingers. Strumming of a lyre often accompanied the recitation of poetry in ancient Greece. It is believed by many that the lyre originated in Egypt. The word lyre is derived from the Greek word lyra. The plural form of lyre is lyres.

    Examples

    The song’s sharp topical message — the Dylan-esque refrain of “your prophet is a banker and a liar” — was also appealing to Driftwood Soldier, who filmed the accompanying video around Wall Street in New York. (Billboard Magazine)

    Anyone can tell a tall tale, and the library suggests bringing your best to “compete for marvelous prizes, bragging rights and the title of ‘Kentucky’s Best Liar.’ ” (The State Journal)

    People often climb on the statue, and Mark Kutney, a conservator with the university, guessed that decades of people grabbing the lyre to pull themselves up, along with rain, corroded the metal joining the lyre to the rest of the statue. (The Daily Progress)

    Aristotle imagined a future in which “the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them.” (Bloomberg Businessweek)


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