Archive for 5: lllowercase 3

kkk: A Psoft Psi

A couple weeks ago, Fran Poodry asked me what was up with words that start with a silent P, and I had to confess I didn't know. (Such words include pfennig (in the American pronunciation), pneumatic, psalm, words starting with pseud-, psi, psittaform, Psmith, words starting with psych-, ptarmigan, pterodactyl, ptomaine, and so on.) The […]

jjj: Leveraging Core Competencies

The terms "jargon," "argot," "slang," and "cant" all refer to nonstandard language used by particular groups. Loosely speaking, the terms are interchangeable; if I were to make usage distinctions, I would say that "cant" most often refers to criminal slang, "jargon" to technical or professional terms, "argot" to language used only within the given group, […]

iii: So, Mimi…

Whenever we speak, we make music. Well, okay, that's not entirely true. But in voiced (not whispered) spoken English, every speech sound has a pitch. In most utterances, the pitches stay fairly constant from one syllable to another, though pitch rises at the end of a question and falls at the end of a statement; […]

hhh: Nitpickers R Us

"Proofreading is an art and a craft." —The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed., example in Fig. 3.2 For the past few months I've been acting as a volunteer proofreader for a Web-based magazine. We need a way to keep proofreading consistent from story to story, for all proofreaders; the obvious solution is to create […]

ggg: Rhyme Sightings

Some time ago, Dominus pointed out to me that "singer," "finger," and "ginger" look like they should rhyme but have entirely different pronunciations. I was amused but didn't know what to do with that information until Jim sent me a forwarded version of the following poem. That version was titled "English Is Tough Stuff" and […]

fff: Dance, Dance, Wherever You May Be

(I was going to include a gratuitous photo of a fox trotting in this column, but the picture in question was too blurry. Instead, here's a gratuitous photo of a fox sitting still.) While doing some research on the gaits of horses recently, I came across the term "fox-trot," referring to a particular slowish gait […]

ddd: Di-Dah, Dah, Dit

The characters of a writing system can be represented in many ways—not only in a variety of fonts and lettering styles, but in any agreed-upon symbolic form: as Braille letters, as flags in Semaphore, as hand-signs, or as strings of dots and dashes... Two weeks ago, Morse Code was officially retired as the language of […]