Chapter One of Cold Morning Shadow begins with a quiz. Not a quiz for you, the reader; it’s for the characters in the book who were sitting in eleventh grade English class. The instructions for the first-day-of-school quiz were written on the blackboard: “For each letter of the alphabet, or for as many a letter as you can, list a pair of homophones that begin with that letter. No credit will be given for proper names, such as Derry paired with dairy. Credit given will favor the greater number of letters for which you can list a homophone pair.”
The teacher, Turn-bullet, as he was known, had also written on the blackboard: I see – icy, you’ll – yule, and oui – we. He told the class that these pairings would not count: matching one word with two — the first example, pairing with contractions, and pairing an English word with a foreign word.
Turn-bullet was concentrating on pairs of words that sound the same but have different meanings and, for his purposes, different spellings as well: muscle and mussel, penance and pennants. The chart reproduced here, which comes from Wiktionary, illustrates the complicated relationship between words with different meanings whose spelling or pronunciation might overlap.
As the story unfolds, two girls in the first-day English class spend the rest of the school year working together on lists of homophones and other words — heterographs, heteronyms, homographs, homonyms, anagrams, palindromes, and more. Their lists are included in Chapter 27 of the novel — at the end of Book One.
As the author, I compiled those lists on my own without the aid of reference books or the internet. I have kept lists of word anomalies, anagram-palindrome pairs, and heterograph and heteronym pairs for years. (See my article about word games that different characters in the story are found playing at one point or another.) Occasionally, while writing Cold Morning Shadow, I did check a definition or a spelling for one of the lists, but I didn’t need to look up examples of these word pairings.
Being a generous person, I am making Chapter 27 available as a download (PDF) right here. You’ll have to read the book, though, to understand what’s significant about any of these lists or individual entries in them.