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It was inevitable – put a bunch of grade-schoolers on the playground in the middle of winter, and someone was bound to stick their tongue to the basketball pole. That a boy wasn’t the victim is a little surprising – this time, little Lizzy succumbed to peer pressure, and when her tongue didn’t break free of its icy prison, the janitor was summoned. I can just see him, rolling his eyes as he lugged on his heavy jacket, heating up a pitcher of water to free the little second-grader. By lunchtime, rumors were rampant that if you approached the basketball pole from just the right angle, a small bit of tongue remained, frozen until spring for those brave enough to approach.

Ah, grade school memories. That aside, it forms the basis for today’s lesson – a befuddling homonym that takes several forms.

Metal is what Lizzy shouldn’t have licked. That shiny material, formed from metallic elements in the periodic table of elements is one form of today’s tricky terms.

On the other hand, boys are involved in this next example, as we turn back the clock to when Vice President Aaron Burr killed former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Sigh…men have felt the urge to rise up and defend their honor for centuries, and this was no different. Hamilton had defamed Burr publicly, and Burr, desirous of proving his mettle, charged Hamilton to a duel.

Tensions boiled over on July 11, 1804, when the two met in New Jersey. Onlookers spread several versions of the event, and in the end, Hamilton died the following day. For Burr, proving his mettle, or quality of strength, wasn’t such a hot idea, and it probably went a long way toward outlawing dueling, which happened by the end of the 19th Century.

For little Lizzy, Aaron and Alexander, it might have been best had there been a nosy neighbor peering from behind her lace curtains, who would have meddled in affairs just a bit. Every neighborhood seems to have one, and think of the results had there been a Concerned Citizen to stop them from their wayward actions. Lizzy would have that little scrap of tongue back, Aaron wouldn’t have had to leave the country, and Alexander could have returned to his family. History is rife with “if onlys” and perhaps if someone had spoken up, we could  have awarded a medal to the brave soul who changed history, both on the playground and on the dueling field.

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