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Can you have multiple-word homophones? If not, what would such pairs of same-sounding multiple words be called?


There is the funny/children's rhyming poem Fuzzy Wuzzy:

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?

The punchline of the joke in this poem is in the last line where the bolded sections are unexpectedly pronounced identically. (At least, I know American & British speakers who 'get' that joke).

Going on this definition of homophone:

a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not

the sounds made up of multiple words seem to fall outside of this meaning. Also "Wuzzy" seems to not be a "real" word (with a definition) or at least is only used in this context. Other definitions I've read seem essentially the same.

So, are "wuzzy" and "was he" homophones? If not, what are they (if anything)?


I wasn't able to find attribution for this poem but would add it if anyone knows it. Wikipedia at least has little detail.

  • For most British English speakers, "was" when stressed is pronounced with the vowel in the first syllable of "positive" rather than the vowel in the first syllable of "cousin". – sumelic Apr 15 '18 at 11:13
  • @sumelic Interesting! My English wife normally does exactly as you say but when she recites the poem in the question she says it differently to form the expected rhyme. I guess that is a learned behavior. – DaveInCaz Apr 15 '18 at 11:31
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Not a true homophone, at least not in most English dialects.

Wuzzy = wɑzi; Was-he = wɔzhi

It'd be most correct to call them a quasi-homophone. As I understand it, homophones are still homophones if one of the choices has more than one word, so long as they sound alike.

  • 2
    I imagine that the OP has [ˈwʌzi] for both places in the rhyme, and that this is the source of their question. – tchrist Apr 15 '18 at 11:42
  • In U.S. pronunciation, I think you'll find the vowels are the same and we lose the [h] when saying "was he" in casual speech. When I learned this ditty as a kid, I had no sense that this was a stretch. – Green Grasso Holm Apr 15 '18 at 11:50

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