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Locks vs lox

  • Locks and lox are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings, 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 locks and lox, the word origin of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.


     

    Locks is the plural form of the word lock, which means a mechanism that is used to keep something fastened so that others can not open that thing without a key or combination. Lock is also a noun that means a section of hair, or it may refer to gates that enable ships to pass through a canal. Locks is the present tense, third person form of the verb to lock, meaning to fasten something with a device that prevents others from entering without a key or combination. The verb locks may also be used in a figurative sense to mean to keep someone from participating in a situation. The word lock is derived from the Old English word loc, which means a bolt or fastener.

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    Lox is smoked salmon made from North American salmon. The term lox is derived from the Yiddish word laks, meaning salmon. Lox is a mass noun, which does not have a plural form.

    Examples

    The 102-year-old valves, used for flooding and draining the large locks, are the same kind used for the construction of the Panama Canal. (The Seattle Times)

    Two local school districts are among those which will install new door locks, surveillance cameras and crisis alert systems thanks to more than $7 million in state grants announced last week. (The Gloucester Daily Times)

    Woodford’s Smaller Fund Locks Out Investors as Firm Shutters (Bloomberg News)

    If you said “Jewish food” you were talking about bagels, lox, gefilte fish, brisket, pickles and chicken soup with kreplach. (Haaretz)

    For lovers of smoked salmon, the New York Times featured an alarming headline last week: “Do Lox and Other Smoked Fish Increase Cancer Risk?” (Forbes Magazine)


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