hominem » homonym

Chiefly in:   ad homonym

Classification: English – not an eggcorn – cross-language

Spotted in the wild:

  • “I don’t speak for the “Religious right”, nor am I sure what is meant by the “Religious right”. I am however, quite suspect of those who attach labels in order to launch ad homonym attacks in lieu of legitimate debate.” (link)
  • Argumentum ad homonym or ‘Argument against the man’ is indeed the logical fallacy of claiming what a person says is untrue simply because of who it is (as*hole) who is making the argument rather than the validity of the argument itself. (link)
  • Your response to my questions was disrespectful, ad homonym, and tangential. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

It is only very rarely that we enter non-eggcorns into the database, but I am making an exception for _ad homonym_.

First of all, homonyms — or rather, homophones, i.e. words that sound alike but aren’t necessarily spelled alike — enter into the genesis of eggcorns themselves.

Second, because the _ad homonym_ malapropism illustrates very nicely what elements are required to make an eggcorn: it is a non-standard reshaping of an established term (check!), _homonym_ and _hominem_ are pronounced nearly the same (check!), but it _isn’t_ a re-interpretation that is based on (a correct understanding of the semantics of) the target word _homonym_.

In a typical eggcorn, the writer understands the sense of the word he or she actually employs; the problem is that the use takes up the place already occupied by a different word, often part of a set phrase. Here, however, the eggcorn users don’t give any sign that they know what a homonym is. In one of the examples, the writer obviously believes that _ad homonym_ means _against the man_ in Latin. It’s the Latin that is faulty, along with the recollection of what the expression is supposed to be, precisely. (And spell-checkers might have had their bit to add, too. Case in point: the spell-checker I just used on this entry didn’t know _hominem_ and suggested _hominid_. _Ad hominid_ also yields over a hundred Google hits, compared to several thousand for _ad homonym(s)_.)

The replacement of a “complicated phrase” by another “complicated phrase” is rarely an eggcorn: often, the writer is unclear about the meaning of both, not only about the original.

| link | entered by Chris Waigl, 2006/02/26 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Candace , 2006/03/14 at 1:12 am

    I have been asked to find a homonym for the two words:
    can you help me out

  2. 2

    Commentary by Chris Waigl , 2006/03/26 at 7:15 am

    @Candace: _Cheque_ and _check_ are a pair of alternative spellings for the same word, not homonyms (unless you count other senses of _check_). You’ll be more likely to find the first spelling in British English and the second in American English.

  3. 3

    Commentary by Sean B. Palmer , 2006/04/20 at 9:33 pm

    How about “Czech” as a homonym?

  4. 4

    Commentary by Chris Waigl , 2006/04/20 at 9:39 pm

    Well, _Czech_, _check_ and _cheque_ are certainly homophones. There is some variation about the definition of “homonym” in the literature: some require identical spelling as well as pronunciation (i.e. that two words have to be homographs in addition to homophones), others treat “homonym” as a synonym “homophones”. Yet another set of people bring in etymology.

    An examples for unquestionable homonyms is the lime triad: the three senses of _lime_ don’t even converge etymologically.

  5. 5

    Commentary by Mod , 2006/09/27 at 1:56 pm


    this thread uses the ‘ad homonym’ in a wonderful manner:

    R: “Haekel [sic] had fraudulently substituted dog embryos for the human ones”

    P: It’s an ad homonym to call Haccle sick. And you misspell his name too. Heck, you can’t even spell sick.

    To technically correct as mentioned, since it is a homophone not homonym, but bravery is the Seoul of wheat.

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