David L. Hoof

Strictly Speaking

Precipitating Confusion

May 5, 2014

Tags: rain, reign, homonyms, novels, films, spoken and written language, literacy, spell check, word play


Rain, meaning to precipitate the liquid state of water, is not the same as reign, meaning to preside over and govern a kingdom, although both words can be used either in the form of a noun or a verb. If spelled properly and used as properly in sentences, neither a spell checker nor a grammar checking program will inform the writer that the wrong word has been used.

This provides an example of a general problem, where a word has been heard and is put down in writing according to the most familiar spelling, without checking for meaning(s). Currently it happens even in leading newspapers, and the results range – when read as presented – from the humorous to the incomprehensible.

With homonyms, the listener does not know whether the speaker can spell the word, because it sounds identical in both forms. In novels and plays, but not often movies, wordplay can intentionally add to the complexity, confusion or humor, and savvy audiences pick up on this immediately. But when these mistakes appear in formal, business or diplomatic writing, alert readers may justifiably scratch the author off their list of permitted e mail senders.

Selected Works

suspense mystery
For every emerging independent woman today, men can be little better than annoying at best and downright monstrous at worst. A creation of a stolen NSA computer program, Fiona Halloran is launched into the present to assist faltering novelist Andy Delaney capture the market that has evaded him, the one for and about women. But there’s an emerging risk: increasing personal danger to them both. This doesn’t stop when they finish his latest novel, Babes & Bastards. It just spills over to the next best seller in a series starring Fiona Halloran, Nun No More. Look for it soon in a bookstore near you.
In the dying Montana town of Sanctuary, helf-Crow Deputy Redfawn Kravitz relentlessly tracks the killer of Senate candidate Jeb Holloway, who then starts picking off the best suspects, one-by-one.
Using only sounds as clues, a blind man must locate his six-year-old niece before kidnappers kill her.
historical mystery
Just before Oktoberfest in 1931, Adolf Hitler's niece and secret lover is found dead in a locked room in the Fuhrer's Munich flat. Pressured by the Nazis, the police rule it a suicide, but evidence suggests a cold blooded execution. If the killer can be outed, widespread outrage will thwart a maniac's rush to power.
A cheated wife goes way overboard to get revenge on - and a fair settlement from -- her uberrich husband, with terrifyingly hysterical results.
literary mystery
Little Gods is prep school noir, like A Separate Peace as if it were written by Alfred Hitchcock.
action adventure
A clandestine biowar attack on America reduces society to medieval chaos.
Approaching Christmas, a winter blizzard locks Chicago in snow. Among its residents, retired FBI poisons expert Tad Lindholm is a haunted man. Haunted by his past, haunted by his recently dead lover Yvette, haunted by the long shadows of too many empty booze bottles, haunted by depression, and tempted by an arsenal of deadly doses to end it all. At the same time, he is trapped by lingering suspicions that he alone synthesized the traceless toxins responsible for recent deaths. Numb with stubbornness, encircled by intersecting mysteries, Lindholm pursues the real killers among his enemies, only to discover an unimaginably personal betrayal.