Yesterday Indira’s class did a lesson in French about homonyms – a class of words that are pronounced the same way but are often spelled differently. So when I coincidentally came across two such words this evening, I was sort of chuffed that I now knew the right term for this !
The title of an article about Sarah Palin in a blog on TIME magazine’s website includes the phrase “…Outrage or Just Deserts?”
It seemed to me that something looked wrong there and when I read the comments, posted in response to the article, I thought another more observant reader had caught the mistake – a small error in spelling. This person wrote to point out that the word desert is missing an s and in fact I have always assumed too that this phrase uses the word “desserts”, since the meaning of the phrase makes the latter seem the logical choice.
Turns out , as the writer explained in his response, that in fact the correct usage is as in the article’s title.
Apparently, the word desert has a secondary meaning – “that which is deserved” (the root of the word is the Latin deservire, which is also the root of the word “deserve”) as discussed in the following links:
Homonyms include all sorts of sub-categories and the desert-dessert pair may belong to either homophones or heterographs, I haven’t been able to figure out which one, from this Wikipedia page link here