Church Homophones

photo credit: ifindkarma via photopin cc

photo credit: ifindkarma via photopin cc

There’s an episode of the original Star Trek series where the crew comes across a planet where the Roman Empire never fell and is dealing with a small religious cult. Kirk and the crew come to like the people who they hear worship the sun and oppose their oppression by the Romans. It’s only at the end, as their leaving the planet that Uhura clarifies that they actually worship the Son of God, insinuating that like Earth, this group is actually an oppressed group of early Christians.

That’s a fun example of one of the problems with English — homophones. From the Greek words meaning same and sound, a homophone is a word that sounds like another, but is spelled differently and has a different meaning. Some of the common ones are your and you’re as well as the trio to, too, and two.

This grammatical phenomenon can actually cause some theological problems when you think about it. Like the crew of the Enterprise noted, a group who worships the sun is quite different from a group that worships the Son.

When putting together the lyrics that go on your screens or copy for the web, this could be particularly troublesome. Consider carefully whether you’re talking about the “rain of God” (water coming from the sky) or the “reign of God” (His job to rule over creation). Is your congregation being “raised” by worship (lifted) or “razed” by worship (torn down or demolished)? Would you “dye” without Christ’s love (color fabric or some other material) or “die” without Christ’s love (cease to live)?

Those are the easy ones, though. What about older words? “Mete” is the word that means “give out,” not meet or meat. “O” is an exclamatory word that you’ll often see when addressing God, as in “Hear me, o God!” By contrast, adding the “h” after the “o” turns the sentence into one where you’re taking His name (or at least title) in vain: “Hear me, oh God!”

“Lo! The Angel of the Lord,” means “Look!” unlike “Low!” which would mean that the Angel is not flying far above the earth.

One of my favorite homophones is “Till.” A till is a cash drawer, so if you mean “until,” remember to put the apostrophe on the beginning and only include one “l” at the end.

The possible mistakes are too numerous to mention, but the solution is to make sure you’re not the only one who looks at anything. More people are more likely to catch mistakes and keep you from unintentionally celebrating when “Yay, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” should be “Yea, though I walk…” That’s not the point of that Psalm.

What mistakes have you seen that were unintentional, but either humorous or theologically troublesome when you thought about them? Leave your (not you’re) answers below.


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