Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oh, quit WHINING & have a glass of WINE!

No one really feels better when they WHINE, but if they have a glass of WINE instead, now that's a different story!
If you walk around Union Square when the farmer's market is there, you've probably seen this sign from a wine vendor. Some people who notice it, especially those who like English or language in general, are usually amused by it. What about you? Do you like this sign? Do you notice the PLAY ON WORDS on it?

Many PLAYS ON WORDS or puns use homonyms and homophones, which I've mentioned in one of our previous posts. This PLAY ON WORDS is a play on the homophones WINE and WHINE. Wine, of course, is the drink you probably enjoy with your meal. WINE isn't really used as a verb, except for the expression to WINE AND DINE someone, which means to treat a person to a fancy dinner.
  • HOMONYMS - different words that are spelled the same way and sound the same.
  • HOMOPHONES - different words that sound the same, but are spelled differently.
WHINE, on the other hand, is often used by itself. This word means to complain aloud and annoyingly. You can totally say, "I'm so annoyed; excuse me for WHINING a bit." Or "I usually WHINE a bit when I'm annoyed." Also, if someone is complaining out loud, we sometimes say, "Oh, quit WHINING."

This sign is clever and amusing because if the person didn't know this was from a wine shop or didn't see the sign, he or she would probably wonder why "whining" a bit would make someone feel better. On the contrary, "whining" usually just makes anyone feel more horrible. Don't you agree? That is unless they're spelling it without an "H", then it makes more sense. :-)  Get it?
Do you have any questions about homonyms and homophones? Feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for future posts for more examples. The next time you feel like WHINING, grab a glass of WINE, instead, and enjoy!

-- Joe Yu, ESL instructor

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