Homely - homily - hominy

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Homely, homily and hominy are three words of which only one is in common use in British English, but which only differ by one letter from each other, and therefore can be confused by simple typing error.

  • Homely (two syllables, pronounced as written: 'HOME-li' IPA: /'həʊm lɪ/) is an adjective meaning `'to do with a home', most often a modest or simple home, with connotations of 'simple', 'unsophisticated', 'plain' or 'rough'. British and American usages diverge:
    • in Britain, homely often carries overtones of 'cosy' or 'comfortable', of a decent inexpensive or unsophisticated sort, with no airs or graces;
    • in the USA, homely may be applied to women in the depreciative sense of 'plain-looking', 'not remarkably attractive'.
  • A homily (three syllables. 'HOMM-i-ly', /'hɒm ɪ lɪ/) was originally the name of the address given by the priest during a church service to explain or emphasize a reading from the Bible. It is often used as interchangeable with 'sermon', but scholars of theology and liturgy distinguish between the two (which do have an overlap): the homily is an exposition or analysis of scripture, while the sermon is "a discourse developing a definite theme" (Schaff, Philip (1887) Encyclopedia of Living Divines and Christian Workers of all denominations in Europe and America. Being a supplement to Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, cited OED).
    • During the English Reformation of the sixteenth century, in the reigns of Edward VI and Elizabeth, two books of Homilies were published as "Appointed to Be Read in Churches" to assist the parish ministers in preaching the new reformed doctrine, and to wean congregations away from the now abandoned Roman Catholic theology and liturgy, etc. The First Book of Homilies, largely written by Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), Archbishop of Canterbury and martyr, was published in a collection of twelve sermons in 1547; The Second Book of Homilies, the Elizabethan homilies, was largely written by John Jewel (1522-1571), Bishop of Salisbury, and published in a first edition of 20 sermons in 1562, and a second edition of 21 sermons in 1571. Both Books of Homilies, including the 21st (the Homilie agaynst Disobedience) were published in uniform editions in 1582, 1589, and 1595, in an authorized single edition in 1623; and in eight unauthorized unified editions between 1625 and 1687.
  • The non-count noun hominy (three syllables. 'HOMM-in-y', /'hɒm ɪ nɪ/) is the name of a preparation of maize which is commonly eaten in the southern states of the USA, frequently in the form of hominy grits, a type of coarse maize porridge. The word derives from a Native American language spoken in what is now Virginia at the time of the early European settlement, possibly Powhatan.