Do You Paint with a Palate or a Pallet or a Palette?


Not too many homo­phones trip me up, but one set con­sis­tently seems to.

Homo­phones? you ask.

Homo­phones are words that sound alike but are spelled dif­fer­ently and/or mean dif­fer­ent things. For exam­ple: to, too, two; or its, it’s; or all, awl. The list goes on and on. The one that has often sent me to the dic­tio­nary to double-check is this set: palate, pal­let, palette.

This morn­ing, over at Gram­mar Girl Mignon Fogarty’s “Quick & Dirty Tips” web­site, she offers some tricks to keep the three straight. Very helpful!

Palate can be remem­bered by its end­ing, –ate, because your palate is the roof of your mouth or your taste pref­er­ences. It has to do with food, so think of the past tense of “eat.”

It’s harder to come up with a good trick for pal­let, which refers to the plat­form goods are loaded and shipped on, or to a nar­row bed. Gram­mar Girl sug­gests think­ing of the two “l’s” in the mid­dle of the word as the edges of a nar­row bed. I like to think of them as two of the slats that run cross­wise to make one of those wooden ship­ping pallets.

And a palette is a set of col­ors a painter uses, or the board, often roughly oval-shaped, that holds those pud­dles of paint into which he/she dips the brush. Gram­mar Girl men­tions that –ette is a com­mon French word end­ing, and a lot of famous artists were French (Monet, Renoir, etc.).

I don’t think I’ll have to take time to look up these words again! If you have any good tricks that help you sort out homo­phones, please share in a com­ment below.


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