Merry or Marry Christmas – Homophones


In this episode, we learn about a new grammar term called Homophones. I also talk about Christmas and how people celebrate Christmas in Australia and New Zealand. Enjoy :)



Hello amigos y amigas, you are listening to English Made Simple, episode #64, sesenta y cuatro.

Yo, how’s it? Qué onda? Welcome to the English Made Simple Podcast, my name is Milena from Hey guys, just to let you know, English Made Simple podcast is going through rebranding, I have changed the look of the podcast image, I have changed the image, so what do you think? It’s easier to recognise the podcast now, you can see it from the airplane. I think it looks pretty cool, it stands out.

The image has changed, I am still the same, I haven’t changed a bit, except a few grey hairs (canas) grey hair,getting old, but overall still the same, short and sweet.

Guess what, I saw a sign outside a shop it said “9 sleeps till Christmas”….

This is how people normally count down towards a holiday. So in this case it’s Christmas. We can say 9 days to go or 9 sleeps to go until Christmas. Basically, we have to sleep 9 times before the actual Christmas…. That’s a bit of a literal translation. Nine sleeps till Christmas, that’s all we have!

So, welcome guys, thank you for joining me! In this episode I want to mention something called Homophones. Homophones refer to words that sound the same but they are spelt differently and have a different meaning. It’s a grammar term homophone, there is also another word Homonyms, which we will cover next time. Homonyms refer to words that are spelt the same but they have different meanings.

So, English language is full of these kinda words. It’s full of these confusing words. I struggled with this in the beginning but the more you practise the easier it gets. So don’t worry, be happy!

So I will give you an example of homophones, for example, the past tense of the verb to EAT, comer, the past tense is ATE. It’s spelt as A-T-E.
But when we talk about numbers we say EIGHT for number 8, numero ocho. And it’s spelt differently, E I G H T.

So I had a question posted in Facebook group from Max from Brazil, regarding these same-sounding words with different meanings. He brought this up a few months ago, and I have finally found some time to prepare an episode about it. So a good question Max. So I thought to myself, if Max had a question like this about homophones then I bet the majority of you will have the same question.

Cool, so I will cover this in today’s episode. I also want to talk about Holidays in general, in particular what to say at the time of celebrations. How do people celebrate Christmas in Australia and New Zealand? Why do we say Merry Christmas and not Happy Christmas for example?

So there is a lot to cover in this episode, so sit back and enjoy the show!

Are you ready amigos? Let’s start, shall we?

I want to start off with Christmas holidays first. It’s a short topic and then I’ll start talking about Homonyms because the word Merry is kind of a homophone. It’s part of the homophone family.

When I moved from Eastern Europe to New Zealand, I found it quite strange that people celebrate Christmas on the beach. La playa. In Serbia we celebrated it in the snow, con nieve! As kids, we played in the snow and we used to build a snowman. So, for kids, snow can be really fun, for adults, it’s probably not so fun because when you have to shovel the snow every morning before going to work. It’s not really a fun time. Not an enjoyable experience. I remember my Dad used to shovel the snow every morning before going to work, he would wake up at 5am and just clear the snow. Oh it’s hard work…hard work

Where I come from, New Year is kind of a bigger celebration, we give presents for New Year not really for Christmas. We also have a Christmas tree, árbol de navidad, we would decorate Christmas trees as well, like they do here in Australia and New Zealand. But our Christmas is actually on the 7th January. It’s Orthodox Christmas, it’s celebrated differently. So yeah, when we moved as a family to New Zealand, we had to adjust, we had to adapt to different customs.

However, in Australia and New Zealand people would celebrate Christmas on the beach, there is also a 3 day public holiday, that’s great news if you have to work because we don’t work on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s day.

Boxing day? What is a Boxing Day? Is that a day when people do boxing? They hit each other haha No, not at all! It’s to do with Christmas gifts. It is on the day after Christmas day and it is strictly on a workday, it’s on the 26th December and Boxing Day is marked in the UK and other Commonwealth nations, including NZ and Australia. Boxing Day originated in England, in the 19th Century when the servants were required to work on the Christmas day and then allowed to visit their families the next day. They would be given Christmas boxes, like gifts containing money or similar. So this is called a Boxing Dat, and it’s just another day when people don’t work, ok. It’s a public holiday.

Ok that’s a bit of history trivia for you.

And if you are a cricket fan, I know I have listeners from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka there is a famous Boxing Day game in Australia for cricket fans. I have to say, I don’t know much about cricket, but I know it is another famous sport in Australia and New Zealand and on every Boxing Day there is a game of cricket, called Boxing Day Test of Boxing day Match. I apologise to the cricket fans if I got this one wrong. I see it often advertised on TV and I thought maybe I should bring that up. Maybe I should mention it.. :)

Christmas in Australia and New Zealand

Ok, so in Australia and New Zealand, with friends and family we would play something called Kris Kringle or Secret Santa, amigo secreto. We would celebrate this on Christmas Day with friends and family. I think it is similar in Chile. When I was in Chile my Chilean family would play amigo secreto. So for those of you who don’t know it, you pick a random name from a hat and you are not allowed to share this name with anyone. So if you selected a name you have to buy a present for that person, that person shouldn’t even know that is you who is buying the present. Because it’s supposed to be a secret. And people would play this at work, or they would play it with family and friends.

If you are planning to move to NZ or Australia, or any other English speaking country, you should remember to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays during the Christmas break. Everywhere you go, any shop you go visit, people would say Merry Christmas.

Why do we say Merry Christmas and not Happy Christmas? Hmm… good question.

Normally we would say: I wish you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. You will hear this in the movies.

Saying Happy Christmas is not incorrect, you are not wrong to say Happy Christmas, but it is not as common, I think it’s more common in the UK. They can say Happy Christmas. It’s not wrong, but it’s not common. Cool?
Oki doki? Are you with me so far? Hopefully….


And now this is a nice segue into homophones, i want to introduce you to this grammar term, Homophones. Homophones, the words that sound the same but have different spelling and different meaning.

And English language is full of this. So for example, I used the word Merry Christmas.

The word MERRY. Which is spelt as M E R R Y is an adjective and it means cheerful and lively. Happy, I would say happy, but it’s cheerful, more cheerful.

The word MARRY. Spelt as M A R R Y is a verb and it means to get married, or to take in marriage. Another meaning is to join together, or to combine harmoniously.

There could be a difference in pronunciation between Merry and Marry but every time I hear these words, to me they sound the same. Merry and Marry, one is an adjective and one is a verb.

And guess what, there is also a name Mary – Mary is a common girl’s name in English and it is also pronounced the same as those two words that I just mentioned. And if we had to translate Mary in Spanish it would be Maria. I have a friend in Serbia and Bulgaria as well called Maria, it’s a very popular name right. Mary, Maria.

Anyways, so now we have these 3 words: Merry as an adjective, Marry as a verb and Mary as somebody’s name pronounced the same.

Let’s see if you can spot the difference when we use all these 3 words together in a sentence.

Let’s imagine, you have a friend called John and John is in love with Mary, you say to John:

Hey John, it will be a merry moment when you decide to marry Mary. We used all these 3 words together in a sentence. A merry moment, an adjective describing the moment, it means a happy cheerful moment, and to marry as a verb and Mary the name of the girl.
Oki doki?

Are you with me so far? I hope so! Excellent! Hope you are learning some new vocabulary here. That’s the idea of today’s episode.

So now, another example I wanted to use is the one from Max from Brazil – he had a question regarding There, Their – This is going to be fun!

THERE, spelt as T H E R E just means opposite of Here. There alli, here aqui. For example: The ball is over there! The second THEIR is a possessive pronoun of They and is usually used before
a noun! Their is spelt as T H E I R, pronounced Their. For example: It is their house. This house belongs to them. It is their house. And the last THEY’RE is a contraction of They + are. Example: Where are they?

We can answer this as:
They are there, at their house drinking a cup of tea.

There, their and they’re – they are pronounced the same.

All 3 sound the same, but are used differently.
Oki doki, easy peasy Japanesey!

Ok so here we are amigos, approaching the end of the show. Hope you enjoyed today’s episode!
We learnt some new vocabulary, talking about holidays and Christmas and we also learnt about homophones. It’s a grammar term if you are interested to learn more, you are more than welcome, to check out homophones on the Internet – I think there are about 500 words that are classed as homophones in the English language. I am sure you have come across them before.

And whether you celebrate Christmas or not, at the end of the day, it’s just an excuse to have a party, to have some time off work, to eat a lot, to drink and be merry. You know, be happy.

By the way, Christmas is pronounced with a silent T, we don’t pronounce the letter T in that word Christmas. We say Chrismas.

And guys, if in doubt, when you are not sure whether to say Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas then just say Happy Holidays. Happy Holidays is quite acceptable for the majority of people who are not necessarily religious.

And how are you going with your New Year’s Resolutions? What is your New Year’s Resolution? Cuales son tus deseos para el próximo año? I will remind you again! For those of you who are new to the show go back and listen to number #63 to learn more about New Year’s resolutions.

Thank you for joining me amigos y amigas. If you have enjoyed today’s episode please share it with your friends, the more the merrier. Ha! There it is – an English saying: the more the merrier.
Have an awesome week, please be safe and have fun. You’ve been jamming with Milena from – Until next time! Hasta la proxima!

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