A friend objects to French because she finds the concatenations of vowels defies her perusement. They are original, true.
There are no absolutely silent letters in French, but many of them are merely breathed. Like a subtle glance passing, and understood, without spoken words, between un homme and une jeune fille – n’est-ce pas?
Whereas in English, silent letters are like old family secrets, concealed so long that people have no idea what (if anything) they ever meant. And yet somehow, they linger and oppress the future generations.
Or like leftover dishes in the back of the refrigerator that you never ate and can’t remember what they are and whether they are still good for anything, but haven’t got around to discarding. Flavoring everything about them.
Other languages don’t have silent letters at all and look at us with amazement.
But they serve a purpose, like silent butlers and silent partners and silent movies.
They are evidence (like family secrets) of a forgotten ancestry that links us, holds us together. After all, if English were to be spelled phonetically, it would rapidly distinguish itself from the language written (as it already does from the language spoken) in Scotland or Ireland or Australia or India - not to mention all the different languages spoken in the U.S.
Which phoneticism would rule? If nite replaced night, would it also replace knight? Would eight become ate, or aught? Would through be threw or thru if it were through? Led has already become lead to far too many writers, and L.E.D. is not a past pariciple of any description. As for foreign words rewritten as English, if niche were obliged to choose between "nitch" (the correct English spelling) or its French ancestor, would it be written "neesh"? Would beautiful's beauteous bounty of vowels be replaced by the voicing "y" of byootiful, since we lack the alternate vowels of the Russians? If know were spelled no, would not confusion arise? And would wud be pronounced wood or wad? Would money retain its reassuring extra "e" - and where would all the other "e"s go, the silentest as well as the frequentest letter in our language? Would we reduced to IM speak?
R U + (with) me?
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