Archive for Monday, November 12, 2012


River City Jules: Homonym headaches

November 12, 2012


I recently overheard a group of sixth-grade boys complaining about school work, specifically spelling and grammar.

I kept my mouth shut while they bemoaned the homework and did not say a word while they carried on about how heavy their English books were. But when they started questioning the purpose of learning to spell, especially in this magical age of spell-check, I could no longer stay silent.

“Spell-check is great for words like ‘enumeration’ and ‘effervescent,’ but it isn’t going to help you distinguish ‘your’ from ‘you’re,’” I interjected. “And you can’t go into the world without knowing how to spell. No one will ever want to date or hire you.”

Four blank stares told me they were not interested in dating or working right now.

But they were interested in something to eat, which gave me an idea for a story to illustrate my point. They may not recognize the importance of proper spelling (or girls or a job) right now, but hopefully this will, one day, help.

And, with that, I present “Jillian Takes the Cake,” dedicated to all sixth-graders and the English teachers who guide them:

Once upon a time, there lived a talented baker named Jillian. Jillian was as smart as she was charming, with a rum cake rich enough to make Donald Trump weep.

Her company, Sweet-n-Chic, was on the brink of world domination. All she needed was someone to run its social media campaign so she could focus on production.

She placed an ad online asking applicants to submit slogans for Sweet-n-Chic and received three replies the first week.

“Halve You’re Cake and Eat it Two!” read the first.

“That’s weird,” Jillian said to herself. “Why would cutting it in half be a selling point?”

“Sew Good, Ewe will Eat the Hole Thing!” read the next.

“But my cakes are not for animals,” Jillian lamented. “Where are these people coming from, Facebook? Is there anyone out there who knows a possessive from a contraction or hear from their?”

Ready to quit the bakery and open a dog-walking business, Jillian read the third reply: “Stay Happy. Eat Cake.”

“Stay Happy. Eat Cake,” Jillian repeated out loud. “It’s perfect! Simple, easy and there’s no way even the worst of spellers could mess up this one!”

Sure enough, Sweet-n-Chic became an overnight, international sensation. Jillian and her new partner, Webster (who turned out to be smart, single and devastatingly handsome), later sold the bakery and started an online class called “Spelling Matters,” which became quite popular with the dateless, jobless teenage boy demographic.

And, like all good stories end, Jillian and Webster retired to a beach-front condo where they spent their golden years playing Scrabble and lived happily ever after.

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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