Posted by: Jack Henry | March 28, 2019

Editor’s Corner: The Sound of Silence

Good morning! Today I have an excerpt from a column by Richard Lederer, titled “There’s a lot of fun in making the alphabet dance.” I couldn’t find this one online yet, so to read the entire thing, you’ll have to wait for him to post it on his website.

The word alphabet is a joining of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. The Greeks inherited their letters from the Phoenicians, who probably took their alpha from the Hebrew aleph, “ox.” The old Cambodian alphabet, with 74 letters, is the world’s longest. Rotokas, spoken on the South Pacific island of Bougainville, uses only 11 letters.

Now, let’s listen to the sounds of silence. All 26 of our letters are mute in one word or another. Here is an alphabet that demonstrates the deafening silence that rings through English spelling. [KC-I have to say, this is a bit of a cheat when you get to the French words, but then again, we do use them in English without translating them.]

A: bread, marriage, pharaoh

B: debt, subtle, thumb

C: indict, yacht, blackguard [(bla-gərd) kitchen servants of a noble household; street urchins that run errands and shine shoes.]

D: edge, handkerchief

E: more, height, steak

F: halfpenny (hāp(ə)ni)

G: gnarled, reign, tight

H: bough, ghost, heir

I: business, seize, Sioux

J: marijuana, rijsttafel [(rīˌstäfəl)
Indonesian meal consisting mostly of rice, with small portions of meat, vegetables, eggs, curries, pickles, and condiments.]

K: blackguard, knob

L: half, salmon, would

M: mnemonic

N: column, hymn

O: country, people

P: psychology, receipt

Q: lacquer, racquet

R: dossier, forecastle [(fōksəl) an ancient warship’s short upper deck forward raised like a castle to command an enemy’s decks; the part of the upper deck of a ship forward of the foremast.]

S:debris, island, viscount

T: gourmet, listen, rapport

U: circuit, dough, gauge

V: fivepence (fi-pən(t)s)

W: answer, two, wrist

X: faux pas, grand prix

Y: aye, prayer

Z: rendezvous

Growing up watching the Electric Company and Sesame Street, it was usually about the silent “e” or silent “k.” Who knew that all of our letters can be “quiet” at times?

Enjoy your day!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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