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ibstubro's avatar

Words that start with silent letters?

Asked by ibstubro (18765points) December 20th, 2015

A few years ago a group of people were talking about how, when you have to spell your name over the phone, it’s common to say words instead of just letters – i.e. “D like Daniel, A like apple, V like Victor…” etc. We thought it would be funny if it were possible to spell out your name but use letters that were silent in the pronunciation—i.e. “K like knife,” “G like gnat” “P like pterodactyl” etc. They weren’t able to think of too many examples but this seems like the perfect question to turn over to the collective. Besides those three examples, what other words start with a silent letter?

Shamelessly stolen from a 2008 question by @occ.

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21 Answers

Jeruba's avatar

Many. All the wr words (write, wraith, etc.) The ps words (psychology, psoriasis). Some number of h words (honor, honest). Those are the first that come to mind.

It should really be “as in,” though, and not “like.”

JLeslie's avatar

Tsar, Czar, knit, knee, knock, and pneumonia are the first to pop into my mind besides what you already named.

I have a funny example of something similar. My husband was once spelling something for his dad and he said, “c como gato.” It means C like cat. But, cat in Spanish is obviously with a G. It took him a bit to realize what he did after we all started cracking up.

jaytkay's avatar

“K like knife,” “G like gnat” “P like pterodactyl”

That was Lily Tomlin’s shtick on Laugh In as Ernestine the Operator!

Yes, I am old, why do you ask?

filmfann's avatar

Mnemonic
Pneumatic
Django

longgone's avatar

Bdellyum
Mbosco
Pterodactyl
Gnarly
Knick-knack

In case you haven’t heard the Crazy ABC-Songby BNL, here it is.

rojo's avatar

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

LostInParadise's avatar

phthalate and chthonic – start with two silent letters

rojo's avatar

One of the characters in the old British comedy show “The Young Ones” was named Rick but one of the others, Vyvian I believe, said he spelled it with a silent P.

flutherother's avatar

It reminds me of PJ Wodehouse’s character Psmith (the p is silent as in pshrimp).

jaytkay's avatar

@longgone In case you haven’t heard the Crazy ABC-Songby BNL, here it is.

Llama!

Ha ha!!

ibstubro's avatar

Thanks, @longgone!
I love The Bare Naked Ladies and I’d not heard that one.

longgone's avatar

@jaytkay Right?

@ibstubro You’re welcome.

ArranAlston's avatar

Some words that start with a silent are as follows:
write, wrist, knee, knock, knife, psychology, pneumonia, hour, honest, heir, honour, gnaw etc.

rojo's avatar

Would Xenophobic fall into this category? It actually does have a first letter that is pronounced but it is IMO mispronounced.

ibstubro's avatar

But is it, @rojo??

Xylophone

JLeslie's avatar

Xylophone wouldn’t count in my book. It isn’t mispronounced, just another pronunciation for X. It’s the same as Xanax, and of course that word is ok. :)

rojo's avatar

No, pronounced correctly it is an EX-lO-fON and an Ex-an-ax. If it were actually ZI-lO-fON or Zan-aX it would have to be spelled with a “Z” to be correct. Words such as this are what we have Z in the alphabet for. Same for Zee-nO-fO-biK.

JLeslie's avatar

It seems like X can be pronounced both ways. In English we have a lot of letters that can be pronounced more than one way. Sometimes, letters are even silent.

rojo's avatar

It should not be so. We should change it. We have the technology.
We have perfectly good letters that are already pronounced the correct way and should be substituted for the errant letters.
Let us not stand on tradition for the sake of tradition.

JLeslie's avatar

@rojo LOL. If we made English perfectly phonetic that would be great. Spanish is like that. It makes spelling and pronunciation so easy. You would need to change a lot of English words.

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