Wednesday, August 01, 2007

August 1: Capitonym Day

August First is one of the most august days on the calendar.

August is the month named for the first Roman emperor Octavian Augustus Caesar, whose uncle was Julius Caesar. Emulating his Uncle Julius, for whom July is name, Augustus wanted his own month. August was created in his honor, based on the official title Augustus that the Roman Senate gave Octavian (1).

The opening sentence of this post demonstrates that August/august is a capitonym.

A capitonym is a word that changes pronunciation and meaning depending on whether or not it is capitalized; therefore, an August dinner party is quite different from an august dinner party.

Here's a short poem from Richard Lederer's Word Circus containing four examples of capitonyms:

Job's Job

In August, an august patriarch

Was reading an ad in Reading, Mass.

Long-suffering Job secured a job

To polish piles of Polish brass (2)

Today's Challenge: Begin August with an August Word Challenge

Fill in the blanks below with the appropriate capitonyms.

1. We had a ______ two-week vacation in _____, France.

2. Yesterday was a ________ day than today on Mount __________.

3. We walked all over _____, Peru looking for a place to buy some ______ beans.

4. Don't ________ Ron by asking him to correctly pronounce the name of the _______ River.

5. As a child Mark _________'s hockey gear always made his room much _________ than his sister's room.

Quote of the Day: Smell brings to mind... a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. --Diane Ackerman

Answers: 1. nice (NICE - NEECE) 2. rainier - (RANE-ee-er, ray-NEER)3. lima (LEE-ma, LIE-ma) embarras (em-BAR-rass, AUM-bro) 5. messier (mess-ee-AYE, mess-ee-ER)

1- Funk, Wilfred. Word Origins and Their Romantic Stories. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1950.

2 - Lederer, Richard. The Word Circus. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1998.

No comments: