Do you broach or brooch a subject? Is the jewelry worn on a lady’s lapel a broach or brooch? Let’s check out these homophones.
Homophones can cause a great deal of confusion for writers, speakers and listeners. They are words that sound exactly alike even though they are spelled differently and have very different meanings. When you’re selecting between words like broach or brooch, you’re dealing with homophones.
You’re probably more familiar with the first word than the second. At least, you’re more likely to see the first word spelled out. Because of the spelling, the second word might fool some into thinking it should be pronounced to rhyme with pooch. It seems like a reasonable idea phonetically, at least. Alas, this is one of the English language’s many little traps.
Whether it’s broach or brooch, both rhyme with roach.
So let’s look at the two words and see where they came from!
Broach is a verb that has two meanings. The first one is the one you’re likely most familiar with. That definition is to raise something for discussion. One can broach a subject that might be a sensitive topic.
The second definition involves piercing something, often a cask, to draw out the contents.
As a noun, it can refer to the tapered instrument with which you might broach that cask.
The noun version entered the English language around the year 1300. The verb version came later. The meaning about raising for discussion didn’t arrive in the English language until the latter half of the 16th century.
A brooch is an ornamental piece of jewelry that typically has a long needle behind it to hold it in place. Interestingly enough, brooch comes from the Old French word broche, which means a “long needle.” With that, you can see the connection to the second definition of broach. The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests the specialized definition led to the unique spelling of brooch.
Thanks to the English language’s affection for words that sound alike and are spelled differently and for words like brooch, which aren’t pronounced the way their spelling suggests they should be, there’s practically no end to the potential grammar posts to be written!