U is for Uglifruit

Tangelo or Uglifruit
An Uglifruit is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit.

Silent letter U

Rule

U is not pronounced when it comes after G and before a vowel. In these words, the U serves to make a hard g-sound.

catalogue

colleague

dialogue

guard

guess

guide, guidance

guilt

guitar

Exceptions

The letter U may take on the sound of W, especially after a G or a Q.

anguish

queen

quick

sanguine

segue

suave

In these words, the letter U does not create a hard g-sound. The G is a part of the nasal form —ing— or —ong—.

meringue

tongue

The same rule applies when the letter U follows a C. The U is silent, but serves to make a hard-c sound.

biscuit

circuit

U is also silent in words of mainly French derivation with the suffix —que.

antique

appliqué

bouquet

cheque [UK; check, US]

marquee

mosque

oblique

plaque

toque

unique

U is silent in few other words.

quay (pronounced kee)

Exercises

  1. Make a sentence using words with a silent U and then sound them out.

Special reading assignment

  1. Uglifruit is a trademark name for a Jamaican tangelo, a hybrid cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit (or pomelo).
  2. Is it our Ulster team that is the underdog? That’s unusual.

M is for Mango

These tasty mangoes are displayed in a local shop.
These tasty mangoes are displayed in a local shop.

The Letter M: Significance and Abbreviations

M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet and the Roman numeral 1,000.

M is the abbreviation for “Monsieur” [French], “medium” in clothing sizes, “middle,” and “Monday”.

As a symbol, a capital M stands for “mega—“ and a small m stands for “metres” or “milli—.”

MA is the code for Massachusetts used by the US postal service. Other US postal codes include ME (Maine), MN (Minnesota), and MO (Missouri).

An M-16 is a rifle.

Titles and Degrees

In contractions, the letter m stands for “my” in m’lord, for “am” in I’m, or for “madam” in yes’m. “Madam” may also be contracted to ma’am.

Ma is a contraction of “mama” or “mother”.

Miss is the form of address for an unmarried woman, Mrs or Mrs. (an abbreviation for “mistress” but now spelled out “missus”) for a married woman. As a compromise for women who choose not to reveal their marital status, there is Ms or Ms., pronounced “Mizz”.

For men, Mr or Mr. stands for “mister,” the title assigned to ordinary men. It is also used to denote a man holding a particular office or, in a jocular way, a man with a certain characteristic.

Mr. Morris

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Nice Guy

An MA or an M.A. is a Master of Arts degree. MD generally stands for Doctor of Medicine. As academic degrees, MD and M.A. are placed after the name.

Mike Morris, M.A.

Murray Jones, MD (or Dr. Murray Jones)

Exercises

  1. Look for additional abbreviations, acronyms, and codes that include the letter M.

Special reading assignment

  1. Minnie Mouse minced more melons into the mix with mangoes.
  1. My Mazerati made a marvellous impression on the motorway.

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published in the fall of 2014.

B is for Banana

Fruit: bananas
A basket of bananas.

Significance, abbreviations, and contractions

B stands for the second in the order of things.

b. may stand for “born” or “date of birth”, e.g., the Right Hon. Richard Bedford Bennett, b. 3 July 1870.

As an abbreviation, B.A. or BA after a name is a bachelor of arts degree.

B’y is a contraction for “boy” in Newfoundland English. (“I’s the b’y that builds the boat” is a popular folk song.)

Bye in “good bye” is also a contraction. “Good bye” means “God be with you”.

Bye-bye” is a further contraction.

 

A is for Apple

A is for Apple
An apple a day…

A is for Alphabet

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The word alphabet is derived from the Greek letters for A, alpha, and B, beta. The alphabet was created by a Semitic people living in Egypt around 1900 BC. Phoenicians and Hebrews adopted it, and then it spread to the Greeks and finally the Romans. Each culture changed it a little along the way.

The order of the alphabet is very important, both for finding words in the dictionary and for reading and making lists.

Writers practise reciting the alphabet the way musicians practise scales.

Some A words

a

ace

act

age

air

ant

art

as

at

axe

Confusing A words

away, awarding, always, wayward

about, above, abuse

gap, gape

cad, cape

argue

Special reading assignment

  1. “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.”

—Bernard Baruch