The Tale of the Hare With the Very Long Hairy Tail: Homonyms, Homophones, and Other Fun Word Play
The Confusing English Language
Those of us who grew up hearing English spoken to us and learning it as our primary language may not realize at first just how confusing the language really can be for people of other nationalities who are trying to learn it as their second or third or fourth language.
There are so many words that look and sound alike but mean entirely different things. How is a non-native English speaker supposed to make sense of it all? Well, the same way a native English speaker does, in a way - through the use of contextual clues. By looking at the whole puzzle, you can understand the individual pieces a little better.
Just for fun, I decided to write a little story using some words that might confuse non-native English speakers (and even some that might confuse native English speakers if they're hearing this story and not seeing it themselves). Hopefully, I've done a good enough job that the context will make the meanings of all the words clear.
The Start of the Hairy Tale
This is the tale of a hare and his very long, hairy tail. All the other hares laughed at him, of course, whenever they would get a peek at his hairy peak.
Poor hare! He just kept on hopping and hoping that he would finally be accepted for who he was inside instead of being excepted because of his unusually hairy tail.
An Unexpected Drop From the Sky
He was hopping through the forest one morning doing his usual pre-breakfast hare-y routine when he noticed that somebody threw something at him.
He couldn’t see who it was who threw the item through the sea of leaves, and he didn’t bother straining his eyes too much because the icy morning wind made it difficult for him to keep his eyes open at all.
The hare looked down at the ground and studied the oddly shaped object that landed at his feet. “Hmm. What’s this?” the curious hare queried as he picked it up off the ground. As he bit into it, he noticed that it was very soft and sweet and juicy. Wonderfully delicious!
Hare in Danger
The hare happily hopped off in the direction of the big stone quarry, not knowing that a crafty old hawk had spotted him and decided to make the hare his quarry. The hawk prayed that his prey would not get away and tracked the hare’s swift trek from the sky above.
When the hare put the brakes on to take a little break, the hawk swooped in to confront him. But, as has been mentioned before, this was a crafty hawk, and he had taken the time to find a little craft fabric to wrap around himself like a cloak. He tried to do his best imitation of an old witch, which was actually a pretty good imitation since he had lived as a witch’s familiar for a time and had a very keen sense of observation.
The hare stared up in surprise, as if he was expecting to see a staircase descending from the heavens. But no. All he saw was the air (well, you can’t really see air) and the trees and the blue sky with its white puffy clouds that form into all kinds of interesting shapes.
Oh yes, and he did see the crafty hawk standing before him before he turned his eyes away again (although he really didn’t know it was the hawk, of course, because the hawk was in disguise).
An Unlikely Conversation
“Hello,” the hare said, blinking his little brown eyes and twitching his nose and trying very hard to keep his long hairy tail tucked under him out of sight in the middle of that conspicuous site.
The hawk grinned a devilish grin (at least as much as a hawk can grin) and gave a little bow, being careful not to show the secreted bow underneath his cloak that could, if fired, cause blood to secrete from wounds in the hare’s delicate flesh.
“Hello, friend hare. How are you today?”
“I’m quite all right, except that I’m a little troubled by this strange object I just found. Actually, I think someone threw it at me, the way it landed in front of me, although I couldn’t actually see anyone through the trees. Do you know what it is, by any chance?”
The hare held the object out so the hawk could get a look. The hawk grinned again and thought to himself, ‘Hmm... This hare is a fool if I ever saw one, and I’ve definitely seen some fools in all my years.’ To the hare he said, “Why, yes, friend hare. I do know what that is. That is a pear.”
“A pear, eh? Is that some sort of fruit? I like fruit. It’s yummy.”
A Pair of Pears
The hawk couldn’t stop a sigh escaping from his lips at the sheer idiocy of this little creature in front of him.
“Yes. It is a pear. And look, I have another one.” He reached a wing up under his cloak and pulled out another pear, although this one wasn’t quite as beautiful and ripe looking as the one the hare had just bit into.
The hare snatched the pear greedily from the hawk and held it in his other hand.
“Aha! Look!” he laughed. “I have a pair of pears now!” He studied the two pears for a bit and noticed how different the second pear was from the first. It had a seam running down the side of it that seemed to be opening slowly as he watched it.
The Hawk Gets a Surprise
"What's this?" the hare asked as he stared as the seam seemed to tear open. He looked up into the hawk's eyes, which were tearing with anticipation.
The two pear halves broke apart, and the hare found a shiny metal pair of scissors nestled in the middle of the pear. You see, the hawk had intended to use the hidden scissors as a weapon against his prey because the hare would not be expecting that kind of attack. The element of surprise is, after all, a very effective battle tactic.
But the hare was too quick for the hawk, whose wings and beak were getting tangled up in the big black cloak he was wearing because of his wild gyrations resulting from his complete shock at the hare's sudden intelligence.
The hare took two swift snips of the shears and sheared off a bit of his long hairy tail in the process.
"Wowee!" The hare cried in delight. "Now I don't look so different from all the other hares! Thank you, my friend. Thank you so much!"
And, with that, the hare bounded off in the direction of his little warren, leaving the hawk to cry tears of disappointment and hunger as he watched the end of the hare get smaller and farther away.
Moral of the Story
There is no real moral to this story, of course. I am not Aesop, and this is not really a fable. It's just a little piece I mainly wrote to amuse myself, although I can see how it would offer something of value to my readers. That's why I'm publishing it.
Admittedly, this is not anything like what I usually write. But everyone needs to break out of their comfort zone at some point, right? Well, so I have.
More Resources for ESL Learners and Teachers
More by this Author
The earliest historical record of pillow use is from about 7000 BCE in the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia. These pillows were not at all like our pillows today, however. They were hard - usually made of stone.
Society tends to glamorize teen pregnancy, but it should not be a goal for every young woman to achieve. Teen pregnancy hurts everyone involved.
It's a well known fact that people who have pets are happier and healthier than people who don't, and elderly people probably need pets more than the rest of us do. Which dog breed is best? Small and medium-sized dogs...