Posted by: Jack Henry | February 27, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Coal, cole, and kohl

Way back in the day, maybe five or six years ago, I wrote a series of articles on different homonyms (words pronounced the same way, but with different definitions and spellings). I am pretty sure I didn’t cover these three, so I thought I’d share this article from the Grammarist with you.

Coal, Cole, and Kohl

Coal is a rock that is mined from underground and used as a combustible fuel. The word coal is also used to describe the glowing pieces of wood that burn in a fire, a shortened form of the word charcoal. The word coal is derived from the Old English word col which meant charcoal or a live coal.

Cole is a type of cabbage. Most English speakers are familiar with the word coleslaw, which is a type of salad made of raw shredded cabbage. The word cole is derived from the Old English word crawel which means cabbage. [KC – Cole was also the name of a boy I had a crush on in the sixth grade. Luckily, he
did not smell like cabbage.]

Kohl is a black powder that is usually used as eye makeup. Kohl was known to have been used in Ancient Egypt, and most probably before that time. It is said that kohl was originally used in that desert environment in order to repel flies and cut glare from the sun. It is probably one of the oldest cosmetics still in use today. The word kohl is derived from the Arabic word kuhl.


Officials said that this was being done “consciously” to project Jharkhand as a state that had to offer much more than coal mining or heavy industries, a perception created for the state over the years. (The Indian Express)

Among bacteria, fungi and insects, there are plenty of organisms eager to tear into broccoli, cabbage, and their cole crop cousins. (Lancaster Farming)

Life was so much simpler back in the days when our eye makeup consisted of bucketloads of black kohl and *maybe* one or two brown shades. (Look Magazine)

Kara Church

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