Peace, Peace; When There is No Piece
by Owen Fourie
Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation, but they differ in meaning, origin, and spelling.
The Internet is a wonderful place for the confusion of homophones. In particular, there are two words that might qualify for the top place in the category of misused words. They are peace and piece.
Here is an instance of such misuse:
For parents, however, it would likely provide piece of mind. While the temptation to abuse the privilege of monitoring a child’s social networking activity would certainly be a major issue, the ability to assure proper privacy settings are enabled would provide piece of mind.
Astute readers can have no peace of mind on reading this and would certainly like to give the writer a piece of their mind about this glaring error.
Don’t rely on your auto spell check
Here is one of the clearest indications of the inability of your word processor’s auto spell check to identify every spelling mistake. When the wrong word is spelled correctly—which is the case here—it cannot detect the error.
It is important to be familiar with homophones and to make sure that you are using the correct word. Do not rely entirely on the auto spell check.
Let’s make this distinction here:
Peace as in “peace of mind”
“Peace” describes a situation, a state, a condition of no strife or conflict.
“Peace of mind” is that calm state that we experience when we are not troubled by problems or worries or guilt:
It was alleged that the student had cheated in a test. This troubled her severely until it was proved that she was innocent and then she had peace of mind about the matter.
Piece as in “piece of mind”
“Piece” describes a part of something: it is not the whole; it is only a piece of it, a part of it, such as a piece of an apple.
“Piece of mind” is a term that is normally used when a situation doesn’t please you, and you say that you will give a certain person a piece of your mind.
You are saying that you are going to speak to that person and tell him exactly what you think and what he should do. This often amounts to severe criticism:
I don’t like the way he is treating his mother; I am going to give him a piece of my mind.
At peace with English grammar
If you piece together all these pieces of information about English grammar, it will help you to be at peace about using the English language correctly. 🙂
Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are you struggling with homophones or any other aspect of grammar and correct usage? Ask here for clarification.
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