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Dicembre 2014
Più che sorridere fanno rabbrividire, ma le freddure basate sui giochi di parole che hanno la stessa pronuncia (omofoni) sono molto utili per imparare come funziona l’inglese!

di Richard Sidaway © British Council

File audio:

Speaker: Rachel Roberts (Standard British accent)

What’s the difference between a man and a letter? One is male and the other is mail. How do you know if someone is talking about a breakfast food or a type of TV programme? The first is a cereal and the second is a serial. When you are in a restaurant in Canada, do you order moose or mousse? Only one of them is usually a dessert.
Of course you can see the difference between these pairs of words when they are written down, but in spoken English they sound identical. There are many homophones like these in English, and native speakers often get them wrong – they write “there” instead of “their,” or “break” and not “brake.” But homophones also make great jokes:
What do you call a man who keeps you fit? – Jim. What do you call a very old lady? – Anne Teak.


These may be quite recent jokes, but academics say you can find double meanings from homophones 400 years ago in the works of William Shakespeare. It would also be nice to think that medieval soldiers said “Good night, knight!” before going to bed, but we can’t be sure.


Homophones are so popular in Britain people tell jokes based on them at dinner on Christmas Day. Here are some more examples:
I knew a man who used to be a doctor, but he ran out of patience.
I became a vegetarian until I realised that it was just a missed steak.
Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate 9!
This type of joke is so popular people even invent long, complicated stories just so they can put a play on words at the end. Here’s one of my favourites:
A hungry traveller stops at a monastery and goes to the kitchen. A man is cooking potatoes in oil. “Are you the friar?” asks the traveller. “No, I’m the chip monk,” he replies. 

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