Posted by: episystechpubs | July 29, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Knotholes and Knapsacks

Last week, I was listening to a comedy show and the topic of spelling and “the silent k” came up. Today I received an article from Daily Writing Tips about the same topic, so I thought I’d share part of the article with you.

Kn- Words in English

A teaching site offers this rule for dealing with “silent k”: “k is often silent before n.”

An easier way to retain this information is to forget about “silent k” altogether. In a word like knot, k is not “a silent letter” at all, but part of the distinct phonogram kn.

The symbol kn is just another way to spell the sound /n/.

The spelling kn in a word like knave evolved from the Old English spelling cn, in which the “c” represented a guttural sound similar to the sound /k/. For example, the OE words from which our words knight, knot, and knave have evolved were spelled cniht, cnotta, and cnafa and pronounced with a hard first sound. The guttural sound eventually dropped out, leaving only the /n/ sound, but the old spelling has survived in kn.

Here are some familiar kn words.

knapsack know knock
knave knickknack knoll
knead knife knotgrass
knee knight knothole
kneel knit knowledge
knell knob knuckle

Here are some more kn words that may not be as familiar:

knacker (noun): One whose trade it is to buy worn out, diseased, or useless horses, and slaughter them for their hides and hoofs, and for making dog’s-meat. Ex. “Jones will sell you to the knacker, who will cut your throat and boil you down for the foxhounds.” (Animal Farm, George Orwell)

knickerbockers (noun): loose-fitting breeches, gathered in at the knee, and worn by boys, sportsmen, and others who require a freer use of their limbs. Ex. “The child…was dressed in knickerbockers, with red stockings.” (Daisy Miller, Henry James)

knout (noun): a kind of whip or scourge, very severe and often fatal in its effects.

[KC – For the full article, click
here.]

I have to admit the word knout caught my eye, so I did a little more research. As stated, a knout is a kind of “scourge,” which is specifically a type of whip with more than one tail, similar to a cat-o-nine-tails. In many versions, the knout wasn’t just multi-tailed, but each tail was weighted with a metal tip. The most notorious use of the knout was in imperial Russia. Here is a drawing of one for you to wince at:

Kara Church

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