August 16, 2011

Wholly Cow

Homonym is a fancy word that means two or more other words have the same sound, but different meanings and, most often, different spellings. An a-moo-sing exchange on the message boards at my favorite online hang-out got me thinking about this week's homonym pair "hole" and "whole" and the related trio, "holey", "holy", and "wholly".

A hole is an empty space in what should otherwise be a solid surface. A hole in a wall, a hole in the ground, a hole in the head; oh wait, that's another matter altogether.

If something is whole, it is complete and not broken; you are referring to the entirety of the object in question.

A whole hole would be the complete empty space.

Holey means that the object in question has a lot of separate empty spaces. Think Swiss cheese.

Holy (without the "e") is something which is held to be sacred to a group of people. It is usually used in terms of religion, although different religious groups hold different things to be sacred.

Wholly means completely.

Therefore, "Holy Cow" would refer to a sacred bovine; "Wholly Cow" means 100% beef; and "Holey Cow" means you ought to call the veterinarian.

~Marie