Grammar Guy: Through the ears

Oronyms are words or phrases that sound similar that you mishear in a sentence.

Do you ever think you see something but it’s really something else? I’m not talking about mirages, rather, sometimes our eyes just fool us. For instance, I have a beard, and for weeks now it has looked as though I accidentally shaved too closely on this spot under my chin. As a result, it looks like there’s a chunk missing from my beard.

Since I’ve been wearing a face-covering at work and in public, I haven’t seen the spot in many mirrors, however, I caught a glance the other day, and what I really saw shocked me. I didn’t accidentally give myself a close shave; I have a shock of white beard hairs amongst my red beard! 2020 is draining my youth.

Similarly, your ears can play tricks on you. I have previously written about mondegreens, which are humorously misheard song lyrics. Today I want to talk about oronyms.

Oronyms are words or phrases that sound similar that you mishear in a sentence. An example is “stuff he knows” and “stuffy nose.” There’s a big difference between “The stuff he knows could change the course of history” and “The stuffy nose could change the course of history.”

You’ve probably heard this type of phrase before, but I wanted you to be able to know that there’s an official word for it that you can slip in at your next Zoom staff meeting. Would you rather have “ice cream” or “I scream”? There’s a big difference! I could provide many more egg samples (or examples) for your chuckles and chortles.

What’s in “an aim”? That depends on how steady a shot you are.

I doubt she wants you to pinch her ear, but I’m positive she doesn’t want you to pinch her rear.

Would you rather have a Toyota or a toy Yoda?

Does “all work and no play” make Jack a dull boy or a doughboy (or maybe a mixture of both)?

I know your life has bigger problems than oronyms. In fact, if oronyms are the biggest turtle you overcome — I mean, biggest “hurdle” you overcome — you’re likely to have an ice day. And if you consistently mishear words and phrases, perhaps it’s time for you to invest in a new package of cute tips.

By Curtis Honeycutt Times Columnist first published on October 25, 2020

Curtis Honeycutt is a nationally award-winning syndicated humor writer. Connect with him on Twitter (@curtishoneycutt) or at