Question: Do you know these English language terms?

(71 Posts)
HenriettaHedgehog Mon 20-May-13 21:29:34

Homonym, ellipsis, etymology.

Without googling their definition?

I'm just trying to comprehend why children will need to learn these terms. I have completed my degree and lead a successful adult life without needing to understand what these are. So why, oh why, are they priorities in the Programme of Study for English?!
Now the definitions of these words are all straight forward and I recognise the need for children to structure their language fluently and eloquently, however this can be achieved a multitude of ways without forcing them to learn the definitions of ridiculous words.

I would really appreciate other views on this. Have you ever needed to refer to these terms in your adult life?

SirChenjin Mon 20-May-13 21:33:19

I do know that I did know what they meant at one time in my life....just as I knew how to work out the circumference of a circle, how to do quadratic equations, and what the different types of rock formations are.

I think there are lots of things that we learn at school which have no basis in our day to day thinking, depending what we do for a living. Does that mean we shouldn't learn them? hmm

mrz Mon 20-May-13 21:35:13

All the time but it could be because I'm a teacher grin
seriously we were taught these terms and many more when I was at school in the dark ages. I think there are less useful things in the NC

StealthOfficialCrispTester Mon 20-May-13 21:36:15


UltimaThule Mon 20-May-13 21:36:54

They are just words which represent concepts.
The concepts are useful, aren't they?
I don't find them ridiculous at all confused

StealthOfficialCrispTester Mon 20-May-13 21:37:08

I do no where these words come from...

nightingalefloor Mon 20-May-13 21:37:16

Yes. I have an English lit A level though. No chance my 8 year old would.

mrz Mon 20-May-13 21:37:19

As SirChenjin says is technical language no different to knowing the circumference or trapezium etc.

Beehatch Mon 20-May-13 21:37:43

I do, do I get a prize?

grin Stealth. V good.

StealthOfficialCrispTester Mon 20-May-13 21:39:25

Phew that no one has corrected my 'no'

scaevola Mon 20-May-13 21:40:23


I don't see them as unusual terms at all, and are useful if you are discussing how language works. So whilst you might not discuss the language day to day, they have a obvious importance for a Programme of English.

AViewFromTheFridge Mon 20-May-13 21:40:24

Ellipsis - easier than saying "dot dot dot"
Etymology - helps with spelling and working out the meanings of unfamiliar words.
Homonym - another one that helps with spelling.

Surely it's better to know the exact term for something, rather than having to try and describe it. It's like saying, "Why do I have to know that fruit's called a banana? I've been calling it the long yellow bendy one all my life and it's never done me any harm!"

HumphreyCobbler Mon 20-May-13 21:41:06

Yes I know what they mean. I don't see why they would be considered ridiculous words.

grin Stealth

gallicgirl Mon 20-May-13 21:41:08

I'm not sure of ellipsis and I used to tefl!

MammaMedusa Mon 20-May-13 21:42:44

I think they are all quite useful words in discussing language.

We had a mother complain this year about carnivore, herbivore, omnivore being ridiculous words and why couldn't we just use meat-eater and plant-eater. But then the omnivore would have to be a meat-and-plant-eater, or a anything-eater...

If the definition of a word is quite straightforward, and discrete, then why not use it?

plantsitter Mon 20-May-13 21:43:23

They are not ridiculous words. Sure, you could describe the concepts with lots of different words but why bother when you can use one?

And surely it depends what your degree was as to how useful these words would be. I couldn't've got mine without knowing. Anyone who wants to talk about language, or history, or literature could make good use of them.

SirChenjin Mon 20-May-13 21:43:30

Just googled them to remind myself of their meaning - far more interesting than sedimentary, metamorphic and gneous rocks and definitely far more useful.

Phineyj Mon 20-May-13 21:44:36

Yes but I am nerdy about these things. Don't ask me what a gerund is though...

Also I have noticed ellipses are like chocolate is never enough...

HenriettaHedgehog Mon 20-May-13 21:45:35

I agree, I just know there are much more purposeful and meaningful ways to teach children to speak and write well than through learning the definitions of endless complicated terms.

thegreylady Mon 20-May-13 21:45:47

Yes of course I do but I am/was an English teacher and words are the tools of my trade.
You wouldn't call a spade a longish pole with a short handle at one end and a metal blade at the other used for digging would you?

Ellipsis-easy definition- three dots used to signify one idea 'sliding' into another.

scaevola Mon 20-May-13 21:46:10

Gerunds are pretty straightforward really. It's gerundives that I get muddled with.

Teapot13 Mon 20-May-13 21:49:10

I agree with previous posters that these words are useful, although I have to admit I have not had to use "homonym" in my adult life.

Aside from that, I think as an intellectual exercise it is useful to learn categories and then put things into categories, even if you later don't use the word "homonym." Lots of things we learn in school aren't literally useful but they help us train our brains.

I know what they are too. Surely most people do?

hominym a word that sounds the same as another word.
ellipses ...
etymology the stydy of words origin history and meaning.

I use the word ellipses all the time.

and I have spoken about etymology to children in my professional capacity.

StealthOfficialCrispTester Mon 20-May-13 21:51:07

Ok maybe I dont know homonum

HumphreyCobbler Mon 20-May-13 21:53:34
SirChenjin Mon 20-May-13 21:53:51

I don't think they would simply be taught the definitions of endless complicated (are they complicated??) terms though, just as you wouldn't learn about chemical compounds by memorising the periodical table and nothing else. I'm pretty sure they would be taught by application to practical examples - although I'm sure a teacher would be able to explain what actually happens far more accurately!

Yes I know them, and no my degree isn't in Eng Lit. I use two of them regularly in casual discussion.

They're technical terms for things that will naturally need to be discussed in literacy lessons from the age of 5 onwards, and trying to paraphrase them all the time would be a genuine PITA. I personally find the naff little paraphrases of things that have perfectly good names that are used in primary schools really really annoying, though I admit that they are sometimes necessary.

I knew i'd spelt it /wrong but couldn't work out how...

and it's not just one idea melting into another, it's also a tool to make the reader guess what happens next. (ellispses)

WidowWadman Mon 20-May-13 21:54:59

Yes, and I'm not a native speaker. The words aren't ridiculous, but very useful.

MammaMedusa Mon 20-May-13 21:59:30

Surely they are not being forced to just memorise the definitions of the terms but rather to use the concepts?

I remember clearly being taught (around age ten) about the etymology of tri and then having to think of many words beginning with tri that all had a "three-ness" to them. I remember because the boy next to me then rapidly though to octopus/octagon and wanted to know why October was the 10th month, not the 8th!

I remember clearly having it explained that it started as the eight month, but then July and August were added to honour Julius and Augustus Caesar. (I actually now know this is not quite true, but it shows how memory of lessons can stick when taught well - in this case the concept that words have a history, or etymology, which can help you understand them. I still use this to help my to figure out word meanings and to spell).

yy me too mamma . I love etymology!

Thatssofunny Mon 20-May-13 22:02:34

Know all three, use all three. English isn't my first language,...but I have a degree in English linguistics and I teach upper KS2. grin

HenriettaHedgehog Mon 20-May-13 22:05:09

But what about reading high quality texts and engaging in critical discussion? These activities would achieve the same outcomes: children using well structured language. I do however, take back my use of the word ridiculous. These words are important and do have a place, it's just my opinion they belong in secondary school classrooms and not primary.

SconeRhymesWithGone Mon 20-May-13 22:08:02

I know them; I have used two of them in recent posts. We were talking about the etymology of "woman" in Feminism/Women's Rights chat just this past weekend.

BooksandaCuppa Mon 20-May-13 22:09:22

Yep, I know what they all mean. Yes, I would use them in everyday language (though in all honesty, probably 'homonym' the least often) and I would expect older primary aged children to use 'etymology' and 'ellipsis' too.

As others have pointed out, there are literally thousands of things which we might learn at school and not use every day afterwards - why pick on these particular words (and the great thing about precise language and technical terms is that they replace a much longer phrase you might use trying to describe them)? It's really important in the development of thinking skills to have a large vocabulary to draw on. The larger your vocabulary, the more precise AND creative you can be.

scaevola Mon 20-May-13 22:15:46

It would be rather difficult to engage in critical discussion of high quality texts without the terminology that facilitates such discussion in the first place. Homonyms and ellipsis aren't advanced terms and I can see no reason whatsoever to say they're any more unsuitable for primary school children than say metaphor, simile, apostrophe or colon.

And etymology is fun, and it's not a remotely complicated term, I don't see any reason to exclude that either especially as it is such a good area for enrichment of vocabulary and appreciation of texts.

jkklpu Mon 20-May-13 22:20:47

The terms would aid a discussion of the high-level texts you want children to read, OP. I'm sure you can think of more objectionable things about your kids' schooling, can't you? You're not winning this argument.

oohaveabanana Mon 20-May-13 22:21:56

I'm assuming they would be taught at top end of primary? My ds (just 9) uses ellipsis regularly, and dd (y2) knows the concept although would describe it as 'dot, dot, dooooottttt'

Both also know the meaning, although probably not the term, homonym.

Surely learning the technical vocab for a subject is part of any study area?

ghosteditor Mon 20-May-13 22:24:49

I do know what they all mean. I use them all; some professionally (I'm in publishing) but also personally, when I want to describe something, or do a crossword.

Seriously grin

SacreBlue Mon 20-May-13 22:30:38

There are so many words, phrases and acronyms in English we couldn't possibly learn them all.

I would personally just be happy my DCs little brains were being filled up with 'ellipsis' and 'homonym' rather than 'yolo' or 'swag'

moonbells Mon 20-May-13 22:31:29

I learnt about etymology in my 1st year of senior school, when the English teacher was very insistent we write etymologies of words with definitions in our 'interesting words' book, and that we bought ourselves etymological dictionaries. I still love looking up word origins. Thankyou Mr Enfield.

Precision in language is also a hallmark of science, so it's good to know how to describe something as accurately as possible.

AChickenCalledKorma Mon 20-May-13 22:41:02

Yes, I know what they mean. But only since DD1 brought home her SPAG workbooks. She turns out to be very good indeed at pointless grammar exercises and has taught me all sorts of things this term!

SanityClause Mon 20-May-13 22:52:12

I'm Australian, and we were taught "homophone" rather than "homonym".

(My iPad wants to change homophone to homophobe, bizarrely... << ellipses, there.)

brdgrl Mon 20-May-13 22:57:45

Yes. If my kids weren't being taught this at school, I'd be seriously considering moving them.

Homophones and homonyms aren't the same thing.

Homophones sound the same, homonyms are spelt the same (like 'tear' as in 'drop of water from your eye' and 'tear' as in, 'to rip'). At least I think so.

I know them, and I do English Lit., but I think it shouldn't matter too much if someone can't learn them. It's good to try to learn the technical terminology, but IMO it should be a lesson you try and then move on from afterwards, rather than something you keep worrying about.

If a GCSE student forgot some of these words during an exam and had to use a circumlocution, that shouldn't matter IMO. I would hope what they're doing at primary level is just introducting some new concepts and new works, and hoping some of them stick for later on?

I thought I did, but a quick google shows that I have got homonym confused with synonym. Ellipsis & etymology I'm ok with, but I can get etymology confused with entomology.

Yes, I do. [#]

What would you have schools use instead of the word "homonym" when they are teaching children about homonyms, by the way? You can't say "words that are pronounced the same but are spelled differently and that have different meanings" every single time you want to refer to them.

[#] Although I had no idea of the fierce debate that apparently rages on the precise distinctions between homonyms, homophones and homographs. AIBU has nothing on it...

mrselizabethdarcy Mon 20-May-13 23:41:04

ive never heard or come across any of them before! but can go to bed happy that ive learned something today :-)

cory Tue 21-May-13 09:16:34

They are the kind of concept that enriches reading by making you think about language and what we do with it. I am very glad my children are given the terminology to do that. I was taught to spell perfectly but never given the tools to think about what writers do.

Otoh my education was enhanced by being taught proper terminology for dealing with MFL; this means I understand a lot more about what is going on in e.g. French than dc are able to do. Understanding makes things more enjoyable. And it is far easier to understand things if you can put them into words.

therumoursaretrue Tue 21-May-13 09:52:06

I know definitions of all of these. Agree with previous posters that they are not ridiculous and actually quite useful.

Takver Tue 21-May-13 10:00:16

What age are you thinking of, OP? If they're being taught to 5 y/os, I'd agree that perhaps it is unnecessary (though actually I guess small children often like learning about words and would enjoy understanding some basic etymology).

If 10/11 year olds, then I'd have thought that they were useful concepts, and something that would have always been included in the English curriculum as standard (I'm sure we learnt those words/concepts at primary, and I am distinctly wrinkly grin )

choccyp1g Tue 21-May-13 10:07:22

My dictionary is very clear on homonyms

Homophone - sounds the same (as another word)
Homograph - spelt the same
Homonym - either of the above

It is easier to use the correct words when discussing these concepts.

Funnily enough, my Y7 DS is leaarning them, having missed out in last year's Y6. I remember learning them in Y7, but would have struggled on homonym without last night;s refresher course.

choccyp1g Tue 21-May-13 10:11:03

Synonym - means the same as another word.

I love this thread.

Brunocat Tue 21-May-13 12:47:08

I know what all of these mean but I am a teacher.

These are all useful terms - why shouldn't children learn them? Surely we should be trying to broaden their horizons and knowledge rather than trying to limit them just to the bare basics of what they might need when they grow up.

Wishiwasanheiress Tue 21-May-13 12:50:47

I didn't off hand. But then seeing the descriptions I realise I had heard of them but forgotten them. I was interested in them.

Why shouldn't children be exposed to hard terms? Might they not be interested also? Or do you think our children are to dense....? Surely by offering harder things you stretch the child?

Wishiwasanheiress Tue 21-May-13 12:51:17

Bruno phrased that better!

Katnisscupcake Tue 21-May-13 12:58:03

I'm 38, had a grammar school education and have a fairly good job (and have done since I started FT employment at the age of 19) and I can honestly say that I've never heard of any of these words. blush

Maybe I was asleep during that part of my English lesson...

tiggytape Tue 21-May-13 13:04:27

Yes - I know them and what they mean but only because I have one child in Year 7 and another nearing the end of primary.
I was never taught those terms at school and like OP got through an academic degree at an academic university where, in theory I suppose, I would have been expected to know these things.

Many of my friends with no children (including some with highly academic backgrounds) find it amusing that 7 year olds can explain onomatopoeia and they've never even heard of it.

TheBirdsFellDownToDingADong Tue 21-May-13 13:06:03

When I was at primary school (early 70s) we wrote stories in English.
When I was at secondary school we did 6 weeks of English followed by 6 weeks of no English, but woodwork instead.....

My English language knowledge came from doing A levels in foreign languages, followed by languages and linguistics at university followed by becoming a TEFL teacher.

It's great if finally the touchy feely fluffy "oooh we can't ask them to learn something that might be a bit hard, we might scar them for life" approach is falling by the wayside. I am sometimes astounded at how little kids do at school in the UK and how little they know when they leave.

Panzee Tue 21-May-13 14:06:51

I always say "homonym" in Dr Evil's voice. He talks about them in Austin Powers 1. grin

antonym - means the opposite of another word.

tiggytape Wed 22-May-13 14:46:06

And synonym if the one for having a similar meaning.
It is impossible to say though (or is that just me?)




tiggytape Wed 22-May-13 17:19:18

See - once you start, you just can't stop! grin


Seraphin Wed 22-May-13 17:28:49

If your child is learning about language, isn't it better if they can be given the vocabulary to be able to discuss it?

They only know a word is unusual if you make a fuss about it. Otherwise it's just another new word to use when talking about the world.

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