Monday, January 26, 2004
PROFESSION: The division of this map
into various colors was, I wager, done by a lawyer (and not just because I know that FIRE, which runs speechcodes.org, is heavy on the lawyers). The colors track the division of the country into the federal circuit courts of appeals. The dark blue is the 9th Circuit; the orange is the 5th and the 10th; the lighter blue is the 6th, 7th, and 8th; the red is the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd; and the green is the D.C., 4th, and 11th.
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
SILENT LETTERS: We all know about the common "silent e," but which letters in English are silent at least in some words? "Silent" is, I realize, not a fully well-defined term, but I mean a letter that is not pronounced (rather than just pronounced in a distorted way, as the first "l" in "colonel"). I exclude situations where two letters in a row have the same sound, for instance the last two letters in "bass" or "clock"; I do not treat either as silent. A word is acceptable if it (and the pronunciation that shows the letter's silence) is listed as an English word in any standard online dictionary. Don't complain that the word is "really foreign" because it's borrowed from a foreign language. Most English words were borrowed from some other language.
Here's my tentative list so far; a few words have links to their dictionary entries, just to forestall claims that they're somehow not legit. E-mail me if you have words that match some of the letters for which I don't yet have words. No need to send any words for letters for which I already have words, unless the current word is potentially controversial, and the replacement is open-and-shut.
Wednesday (suggested by several readers).
No great "f" answer. Maciej Stachowiak suggests arfvedsonite, but while that seems to be in use, it's highly obscure, and present in only a few dictionaries; "halfpenny" and, surprisingly, "fifth," are sometimes pronounced with silent "f"s, but only sometimes; "chef d'oeuvre" and "roman a clef" are still listed as foreign in my New Shorter Oxford.
Rhino (thanks to R.J. Schoettle; I originally had the less common "noh").
Business (suggested by several readers).
Marijuana (thanks to Maciej Stachowiak) (I originally had "rijsttafel," but then nixed it on the grounds that the "j" does seem to have a "y"-like sound there).
Half (suggested by several readers -- d'oh!).
Dossier (thanks to Dan Simon).
Apropos (thanks to Ellen Dahlgren for this; I originally had the less common "pas").
League (thanks to Kathy Kraig).
v? Some say "fivepence," but I haven't found any pronunciation key proving this.
Whole (suggested by several readers -- d'oh again!).
Prayer (thanks to John Thacker for this).
Rendezvous (suggested by several readers).