Grammar Moses: On homophones and the duality of woman

  • Karen Gillan attends the premiere of "The Call of the Wild" on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. In her new movie, "Dual," Gillan's character has to fight a clone of herself in a televised battle.

    Karen Gillan attends the premiere of "The Call of the Wild" on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. In her new movie, "Dual," Gillan's character has to fight a clone of herself in a televised battle. Invision/AP

Updated 4/30/2022 6:16 PM

Take a look at this spirited description of the film "Dual" from The Washington Post:

"Set in the near future, this sci-fi drama is a horrific cautionary tale about the meaning of life. Karen Gillan stars as a young woman who contracts an incurable disease; has a clone made of herself; then goes into remission and must fight her clone in a televised duel to the death. Did we mention it's a comedy?"


First, that is a movie I just have to see. But that's not why it's mentioned in this column.

Clearly, the title of this film plays off the notion that there are "dual" versions of the young woman -- her original self and her clone. Because she and her clone must "duel" to the death, perhaps those of you who have trouble remembering which spelling pairs with which meaning could use this as a mnemonic.

What I find even more interesting about this is that the film challenges the notion that there are four basic conflicts in fiction: "man against man," "man against nature," "man against himself" and "man against society."

Yes, there are newer conflicts that have emerged in the age of technology, but work with me here. And kindly forgive the limiting pronoun in these categories.

So which category does "Dual" fall into when you have a woman versus her clone? Is it "man versus man" or "man versus himself"?

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Killed them dead

Another interesting item I found in the Post was this headline:

"Couple electrocuted to death making art hyped on TikTok."

To be electrocuted is to die from an electric shock. There is a finality to electrocution, unless, of course, you're on Dr. Frankenstein's table.

On a more serious note, there is an important lesson here.

A couple near Green Bay were doing "fractal wood burning," an art craze in which you smother a piece of wood with conductive material and connect a power source, such as a car battery, to two nails pounded into that wood.

It makes beautiful treelike burns in the wood, but it also occasionally kills the people who try their hand at it.

The American Association of Woodturners has condemned the process, noting that at least 33 people have died trying it since 2016.


Cynthia Cwynar once wrote to me that her husband had difficulty distinguishing between "counsel" and "console."

I get that. Cynthia has an admission of her own: "I get mixed up with 'indicative' and 'indigenous.' I know the meanings but when talking, I flub up with which word to use."


I'm really not sure what to tell you here, Cynthia, but here's one way you might remember it: The term "Native American," which replaced "Indian" a half-century ago, is itself falling out of favor today. The preferred term is "Indigenous people."

And if you can't remember that, think of "indigenous plants" as being native to an area.

If you can't remember that, perhaps you've harvested too much indica for your personal use.

Mea culpa

Eagle-eyed readers Maury Goodman and Dave Wise pointed out that in a recent column I should have used a plural verb form when I wrote "Hillmon's 17 points puts Michigan into Elite Eight."

Well, when you put it that way ...

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/executive editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim's new book, "Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and usage," at Write him at and put "Grammar Moses" in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at

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