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Re^2: My favorite silent English letter is:

by gregor42 (Parson)
on Mar 05, 2012 at 19:33 UTC ( #957960=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re: My favorite silent English letter is:
in thread My favorite silent English letter is:

halfpenny did not work for me as well. Shall we go with giraffe ?



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Comment on Re^2: My favorite silent English letter is:
Re^3: My favorite silent English letter is:
by mertserger (Curate) on Mar 06, 2012 at 09:30 UTC

    Actually "halfpenny" works for me because the "l" is missing in the pronunciation of "half" anyway, so in English-English "halfpenny" only loses the "f" as there there was no "l" to lose. I would say something like "haaf" for "half" normally but "halfpenny" is like "haypenny".

    "giraffe" has an "f" at the end when I say it. Can you say it without one? Wouldn't that just be "gira"?

      Looking at the OED it would appear that there might be some Americans who don't pronounce the second "f" in "fifth", so it would be more like "fith", but I am struggling to think of a genuine standardly-pronounced word with a silent f.

        it would appear that there might be some Americans who don't pronounce the second "f" in "fifth", so it would be more like "fith"

        I can confirm that. I lived for three years in a community in western Michigan where *nobody* pronounced the second F in fifth (and they looked at you kind of funny if you did). The resulting pronunciation was *exactly* like "fith". The phenomenon, however, is not particularly widespread.

        Update:
        I am struggling to think of a genuine standardly-pronounced word with a silent f.

        I don't think there are any, unless you count cases where the entire syllable containing the f is routinely omitted (e.g., camouflage). That's really not the same phenomenon as a silent letter.

        Then again, several of the ones on the list aren't really the normal "silent letter" phenomenon either...

        One that's omitted from the list is the T in tsunami, which has an entirely different linguistic background from the T in depot. Some of the ones on the list have examples that use other letters, e.g., the K in know is exactly the same as the G in gnostic, right down to coming from the same Indo-European root.

      Concerning "giraffe":

      I highlighted the second 'f' to indicate which letter was the silent one. This was an attempt to be consistent with other examples appearing on the list.

      Source: "The final ⟨fe⟩ in giraffe gives a clue to the second-syllable stress, where *giraf might suggest initial-stress."

      Concerning "halfpenny":

      I was, admittedly, referring to the American-English pronunciation wherein I have yet to ever hear "hay-penny" but instead hear something closer to "haff-penny". Based on that experience the 'l' is dubiously silent.

      I will not be lured into a test of yellow arcs regarding American vs. British usage of a commonly misunderstood language however. Let us instead both smirk at how odd we appear to each other & move on, enriched by the knowledge.



      Wait! This isn't a Parachute, this is a Backpack!

        Sadly the pronunciation I have written as "haypenny" is on its way out in England as we no longer use the coin. It joins other odd pronuciations such as "tuppence" "thrupence" etc as we now use "two pee" and so on. Back in the day, my pocket money was a thruppenny bit, a strange yellowy twelve-sided coin.

        I have just checked with my teen-aged son and he's never heard the "haypenny" pronunciation

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