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Reading Trivia

  • Why are four and forty spelled differently?
    One response found stated that "when pronounced correctly, there are two vowel sounds in four. It's pronounced foh-er, except it's slurred into one syllable. Forty, on the other hand, does not have the extra vowel sound in it. It's simply fohr-ty." I like this response better -- "Life gets shorter when U get older!!"
  • Why is again spelled 'again'?
    It's spelled that way because the British English and Atlantic states pronunciation is /əˈgeɪn/ [uh-geyn], rhyming with pain. Again said as /əˈgɪn/[uh-gin], with the vowel of pit or sip, or with a vowel somewhere between /ɛ/[e] and /ɪ/[i], is the common pronunciation in much of the South. But, by far the most common pronunciation of again, in all parts of the United states is /əˈgɛn/ [uh-gen].
  • In most two-syllable words, the first syllable is accented.
    Example: famous, August, notice, people    Exception: polite, explain. instead
  • The soft vowels are e, i, y. In most words where g or c are followed by e, i, y, the consonant g or c has a soft sound rather than the hard sound — g = /j/ and c= /s/.
    Example: gentle, giant, gym center, city, cycle
  • There are three types of compound words:
    open (fire drill), closed (doghouse), and hyphenated (send-off).
  • Ever wonder why gas and bus don’t follow the “FSZL” (doubling of those letters after a short vowel) rule?
    Gas is the abbreviated version of gasoline and bus is the abbreviated version of omnibus.
  • Ever wonder why from, other, oven, come, some, mother, etc. contain the vowel ‘o’ instead of the vowel ‘u’ with the sound of /ŭ/?
    Before the printing press, monks who were scribes notices that many of their quill-penned letters were difficult to read. Most troublesome were the letters formed with similar, beginning, up-and-down strokes: m n w u r v Therefore the wise scribes changed the vowel grapheme u to o when u appeared adjacent to one of the letters listed. The scribes could not, however, alter the pronunciation of the words that were affected by the spelling change they made. Therefore, the grapheme o in words like month, brother, love, some, and wonder, is pronounced /u/.
    (from Nancy Cushin White)
  • Why is guest, guide, guilty, guitar spelled with a ‘gu’?
    Some words with a /g/ sound need to have the letter ‘u’ after the ‘g’ to keep it safe from changing to a /j/ sound.
  • Why is grateful not spelled ‘greatful’?
    The root of this "grate" is gratus (latin), which you also find in gratitude.
  • Why is Wednesday spelled that way?
    Woden was an Anglo-Saxon god associated with both fury and poetic inspiration. He also had a career in curing horses and carrying off the dead, and Wednesday is his day. Woden's day has gone through various spellings—wodnesdaeg, Weodnesdei, Wenysday, wonysday, Weddinsday—but even though Shakespeare tried to match pronunciation with his very reasonable "Wensday," it didn't stick. Woden got to keep his 'd' and his day.
  • What was the “Great Vowel Shift”?
    The Great Vowel Shift was a major change in the pronunciation of the English language that took place in England between 1350 and 1700. Through the Great Vowel Shift, all Middle English long vowels changed their pronunciation. Because English spelling was becoming standardized in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Great Vowel Shift is responsible for many of the peculiarities of English spelling.

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