Not Quite a Homonym

Of all social crimes perhaps the most egregious is the application of scent to the extent that innocent bystanders are reduced to vomiting. I once had a colleague who surely bought her perfume at the K-Mart gallon-sales. She reeked as though a urinal cake had been draped round her neck. Her poor students must have suffered no end of nasal burns being cooped up with her, for indeed I could detect the stench from two hallways away in our college.

And then, of course, on a jet it's always the case that someone has doped up for the flight, and your boarding pass plops you right next to her. (Naturally, you'll get a squalling baby on the other side.) I mean, is she anticipating a romantic encounter, perhaps looking to join the mile-high club? I say "her" not intending to be sexist, but simply to report the statistical nature of it all. Occasionally, however, the offender is indeed male, typically one who finds the notion of bathing abhorrent--just apply another layer!

As if that weren't enough, then you get these wicked scented candles and plug-in air "fresheners." They seem to me to be just the sort of product a chemical company might produce when napalm sales are flagging.

This brings up today's adventure in language. Having you ever been subjected to an evening of nausea, visiting someone who has a goddamn bowl of potpourri lying about? Wood shavings saturated in a dense unnatural fragrance can turn even the most respectable of residences into one of ill repute. According to Wikipedia:
Much modern potpourri consists of any decoratively shaped dried plant material (not necessarily from scented plants) with strong natural and synthetic perfumes (and also often colored dyes) added, with the scent often bearing no relation to the plant material used.
So, I'm watching the excellent film Joseph Andrews last night when a word caught my attention. By the way, Henry Fieldings's 1742 book upon which this was based was always one of my favorites, having read it my first year in college.

Anyway, in the movie at one point the good guys (and the gal Fanny) fall prey to a group not unlike the Hell Fire Club. This evil assemblage intends some sort of outrage against Fanny, sacrilegious as well as sexual. The wicked leader whispers, "Bring on the nuns," which was his secret term for the whip-wielding assistants.

On hearing this, one of the leader's "guests," Church of England clergyman Parson Abraham Adams, is outraged and sputters:

"I hope there is to be no popery."

I think I may have hit upon a new word classification. By standard agreement, two words are homonyms if they are pronounced or spelled the same way but have different meanings. But here we have two words which both convey a noisome quality, sound identical, yet are spelled differently. 

What shall we call this curiosity of language?

Next vignette: A New Word Classification?

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