Posted by: Jack Henry | April 9, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Fold and Foaled

Today’s article, from The Grammarist, made me laugh when I first opened it, because it says, “foaled and fold are two commonly confused words.” Really? I don’t think I’ve ever been talking about doing laundry and accidently referred to birthing horses instead…but maybe that’s just me.

After reading the article, though, I found the discussion of homophones educational, so I thought I’d share it with you. I hope you find it interesting and that you never get the laundromat and the barn confused!

Foaled and fold are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language, and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly.

Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones; the words affect-effect are a good example. However, pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving.

Pronunciation may change even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh.

Homophones are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake. Even a participant in a spelling bee will ask for an example of a homophone in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues.

Foaled is the past tense of the verb to foal, which means to give birth to a foal. Obviously, the verb foal is only used when speaking about a mare that gives birth. The noun foal means a young horse or other equine animal. The word foaled is derived from the Old English word fola, meaning young horse. Related verbs are foal, foals, foaling.

Fold means to bend something in on itself, to crease paper or fabric, or to close up shop or cease playing a hand of cards, especially in the game of poker. Fold is used as a verb or as a noun to mean a crease or curve in something, or a penned area used to hold livestock. The word fold is derived from the Old English word falden meaning to bend back on itself. Related verbs are folds, folded, folding.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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