Official Rules of Triple Homonymity
As is the case with all visionaries, we feel we have a purchase on the
broader truth, a quasi-mystical resonance with the gestalt of triple
homonyms. Yet vision must somehow be rendered into statute if we are to
live among each other peaceably. This necessary act of distillation
inevitably falls short of the ideal.
Here is our attempt to define a creditable triple homonym. These rules
are imperfect, and will no doubt evolve with suggestions and counterexamples,
for we are eager to receive your contributions. We love democracy, but
we feel we must, for the time being, remain the ultimate arbiters of all
disputes. We will look to the Good Books for guidance (Random House
Unabridged, 2nd Ed., and American Heritage, 3rd Ed.), and we will strive
A nest of vipers. Those of you who care to tackle the raveled definitions of 'homonym,' 'homophone,' and 'homograph' ought first to look in three different dictionaries. You will likely find three distinct sets of explanations.
For our present purpose, a triple homonym will be defined as three words spelled differently but pronounced identically.
For a detailed discussion of this point, click on that wheel.
Pronunciation is standard American
Think national newscaster, region-less TV talk, with strict adherence to the Good Books' pronunciation keys, except on the infrequent occasions when those books provide an obscure alternate pronunciation that we have never heard spoken, and which we find annoying. In practice, this stringency means that such populist favorites as pour, pore, and poor will not be inducted, because the latter is, strictly speaking, pronounced differently from the two former (if we knew how to print pronunciation symbols, we would demonstrate this). We have been known to bow to a compelling lobbyist, but this is rare.
No proper nouns
No capitalized names of people, places, things, ideas, theories, processes, etc. None of that.
All tenses, cases, moods, etc., are welcome
We do not discriminate against plurals, -eds, -ings, or
reasonable prefixes and suffixes. They are part and parcel of our language. Prefixes or suffixes on their own (ate, eight, -ate)
do not count.
Derivationally linked alternate spellings generally do not count
Although several inhabitants of Great Britain and the colonies that suffered through the twilight of that empire are dear to our hearts, their curious spelling habits do not contribute to triple homonymity. Thus saver, savor, and savour does not qualify. Neither—and this is a more difficult case—does pries, prize, and prise. The latter means 'leverage,' 'lever,' or, as a verb, 'to pry.' However, it is an alternate spelling of prize, definition 3 in the Random House Unabridged.
Normally italicized foreign words—no matter how common—are verboten
Thus fate, fete, and fait is DOA in triplehom land. Although originally taken from French, fete is a thoroughly
anglicized word meaning (as a noun) 'festive celebration' or 'holiday.' However, as a lone word, fait still belongs to the French (who revel in
their linguistic parsimony). It appears in English only in the italicized phrase, fait accompli, and therefore is disqualified. Fate is
Truly lame foreign words will not be considered, with or without italics
We like the word do. We like the word due. We like the word dew. We do not like the word, du, entered in one of the Good
Books as a contraction of the French preposition de and the French article le in names of French derivation. This is lame.
No unedifying redundancies
Thus, we include cite, sight, and site, but not cited, sighted, and sited, or cites, sights, and sites. The homonymity is identical in all but suffix: it is implied.
Archaic words and regional dialect words
These will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We will consult our Good
Books and our consciences. In times of crisis, we may consult our friends. We have no other guides.