Thursday, May 19, 2011

Homonyms Happen: Acolyte & Accolade

During my morning scroll through my RSS Feed yesterday, I glanced at Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, acolyte. Feeling a little self-satisfied at knowing this one, I immediately identified its definition as “praise” and looked at MW’s definition to confirm. I was then surprised (and humbled) to see—I was wrong. A little digging led me to realize that I had made the homonym mistake! Although neither of these words are very common in day-to-day English, I’m posting them to hopefully save someone else the humble-pie lesson I had yesterday.
Acolyte: a person who assists; a follower
Accolade: a ceremony, acknowledgment, or mark of praise
How to remember the difference? An acolyte is a “lighter (lyter)” version of the person they’re helping. Someone who has received accolades is likely to get laid (lade) for their accomplishment. (Hey—I didn’t say it was a sophisticated system; just an effective one!)