Two Kinds of Homage
Way back in elementary school when we learned about feudalism, we were told that the medieval vassal paid homage to his lord.
My teachers pronounced the word homage: [hom-ij].
Note: Some English speakers don’t pronounce the h in this homage.
When I became interested in movie criticism, I came across the word homage in connection with the practice of incorporating a name or a scene or a bit of dialogue from an old movie within a new production. When I read the word in my head, I pronounced it [hom-ij].
The first time I heard the pronunciation [oh-mazh] in an interview with someone from the film industry, I thought I was hearing a new word. I soon realized that when movie people talk about homage, they give it a French pronunciation. That’s when I realized that homage is a kind of heteronym.
heteronym: A word having the same spelling as another, but a different sound and meaning.
Both versions have to do with showing respect for someone or something, but the latter is used in the context of art.
In general use, homage now means “acknowledgement of superiority in respect of rank, worth, beauty, or some other quality.” It’s usually used in the expression “to pay homage to.”
The other kind of homage is “a work of art or entertainment which incorporates elements of style or content characteristic of another work, artist, or genre, as a means of paying affectionate tribute.” It can also refer to an example of such a tribute within a work. I noticed one in an episode of the television police drama Castle. The episode was presented as a frame story. The “frame” was the present day investigation. The story within the frame followed the usual Castle characters in a plot set in the 1930s. The homage [oh-mazh] reenacted a scene from the James Cagney movie Public Enemy (1931).
See if you can tell which kind of homage is meant in the following examples from the Oxford English Dictionary:
He must do homage to Philip for his lands in Normandy and Anjou, accept Philip as his overlord.
Before leaving the mountains Picasso embarked on a major homage to El Greco.
There is no country in which so absolute a homage is paid to wealth.
That vice pays homage to virtue is notorious; we call this hypocrisy.
Her first volume, however, was not the battle cry of a new poetry; it was a homage to Keats.
This character is named after Humphrey Bogart’s Fred Dobbs in the 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but it’s an homage that doesn’t appear to make much sense.
Proust pens homages to such modern inventions as the railroad, the telephone, the airplane.
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