Buck's English: Homophone trouble right off the BAT

Gene Owens explains why using homophones such as “lou” or “loo” instead of “lieu” is an easy mistake to make.
BY Gene Owens Published: November 20, 2012

Koula Hazell, of Durant, knew she had run into an errant homophone when she read in The Buckboard Flats Daily Jolt that “there is a Business Activity (BAT) Tax in place” on the Oklahoma state ballot “in lou of the intangible tax.”

Before she could bat an eyelash, she spotted another stray homophone in the Tumbleweed Times, a Texas paper: The column “Dear Abby” contained a letter about a man who constantly “prays on women.”

“I wonder if he prays in lou of preying,” said Koula as she batted away a wasp while filling up at Curly's Soonerco.

Let Buck first point out that BAT is an acronym for Business Activity Tax, so it's redundant to write “BAT tax.” The proper way to refer to it is “Business Activity Tax (BAT).”

“Lou” is a popular girl's name, as in Bessie Lou Sawhorse, the sheriff's homely daughter whom the sheriff tries to blackmail members of the Greasepit Gang into dating. It should not be confused with “loo,” a British euphemism for a bathroom or, with “lieu,” a French import that means “place” or “stead.”


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