Q is for Quince

Chaenomeles japonica
This lovely Japanese quince was flowering at the Billings Estate National Historic Site in Ottawa, Canada

Fun Q words

quack

quaff

qualm

quarto

quaver

queasy

quibble

quaff

quiver

Quonset hut

Some more fun Q words

quaint

quarter

quiet

question

queen

quick

quill

qualify

quality

quantity

Confusing Q words

acquire

aquarium

liquor

quagmire

querulous

quire

quirky

raquet

requiem

unrequited

More Confusing Q words

enquiry, inquiry, query

quarantine

quash

quandary

queue, queuing

quintessence, quintessential

quorum, quorums

quota

quote

quotient

 

Exercises

  1. Define each of the words in the “Fun Q Words” and decide whether they are nouns, verbs, or adjectives.
  2. Use each of the “Confusing Q Words” in a sentence to illustrate its meaning.

 

Special reading assignment

  1. The question came up, where was the quartz quarried?
  2. The quintessential quiet in the quarter acre was accentuated by the murmur of quaking aspens.

 

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

P is for Poison Ivy

Rhus radicans
“Leaves of three, let it be.” Poison ivy may be a low, sprawling plant, a climbing vine, a tallish bush, or individual small plants scattered amongst other vegetation.

Sounds of P

The sound of P is a sudden breath (a plosive) made by closing and opening the lips.

pat

pet

pit

pot

put

PH is a digraph

The Greeks invented the letter phi to represent a sound not present in the Phoenician language. It was written as ph when the Romans adopted it into their alphabet. Phi was originally pronounced with an extra breath, as in uphill or loophole, but eventually was changed to an f sound in Latin and Greek. French also adopted the f sound for ph. English was influenced by these other languages, whereas some other European languages have not adopted ph; they just use f. English words with ph are often of Greek or maybe Latin origin.

alpha

gopher

nephew

phase

phobia

telephone

sphinx

trophy

Silent Ps

The letter P is silent in words that start with pne— or psy—.

pneumatic

pneumonia

psych

psyche

psychic

psychotic

Exceptional silent Ps

corps

coup

psalm

receipt

Exercises

  1. Look at the P words in the lists. Are they nouns or verbs? Could you use one as an adjective?
  2. Can you make a compound word using one of these words? Use that word in a sentence.
  3. Look for a word containing ph. Is it a compound word or does it contain the ph digraph?
  4. Define the words containing a silent P.

Special reading assignment

  1. The philosophy of the first Pharaohs formed a phantom phalanx.
  2. Pretty parrots’ performances pleased partying people, poolside.
  3. Please note: poison ivy does grow in cities in North America. Poison ivy is extremely variable in its height, size, and growth pattern. Learn to know the pattern of its leaves and stay away. Every new contact with this plant increases your susceptibility.

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the summer of 2015.

 

K is for Kale

Flowering kale does not mind a bit of frost.
Flowering kale does not mind a bit of frost.

The sounds of K

The letter K is an aspirant, the same as a hard C. Some words may be spelled with either a C or a K. Note that there is a difference in meaning between the words, karat, carat, and caret. The words disk and disc are also used for different things.

kaftan, caftan

kaboodle, caboodle

kalamata, calamata (olives)

kerb [British], curb [N. American]

ketchup, catsup [US]

King Knut, King Canute

skeptic, sceptic

disk, disc

CK letter combination

In some words, a K is combined with a C to indicate a hard C, where the adjacent vowels might make a soft C.

brick, bricked

fleck, flecked

 

Silent Ks

At the beginnings of words, K is silent before an N.

These Ks were pronounced in Old English, in the times of Chaucer and still sometimes in the times of Shakespeare. The change came sometime in the 16th and 17th centuries, because it was easier to say the words without the K.

knack

knapsack

knead

knee, kneel

knick-knack

knife

knit

knob

knock, knocker

knot

know, knowledge

In German, Swedish, and Dutch, similar words have kept the K sound. Some foreign names also keep the K sound.

Knesset [Israeli parliament]

Knossos [Minoan Crete city]

 

Double Ks

Double Ks are unusual in English.

bookkeeper

Unusual K words

daikon

eke

feckless

haiku

mukluk

polka

mucky muck

plankton 

Exercises

  1. In a book, newspaper, or webpage, pick out words beginning with K. How do pronounce them?
  2. Make up your own sentence with a lot of Ks. Is it a true alliteration?
  3. Look up the “Unusual K Words” to find their meanings.

Special reading assignments

The knave was keen to kiss the knuckles of the king and to kick the knees of the knights.

J is for Joe Pye Weed

Eupatorium purpureum
Joe Pye Weed grows along the shores of lakes and rivers, preferring damp places with rich soil.

How to say J

The letter J is pronounced as a soft g or “dzh”, regardless of the following letter.

jar, jelly, join, jug

English words do not end in the letter J. Words ending in a “dzh” sound are spelled with a g followed by an e to make a soft g or j sound.

edge, forge, fudge, sludge

Exceptions:

hadj [Arabic], raj [Hindi]

In some words and names of foreign derivation, a j is pronounced as a y.

hallelujah [Latin] (var. of allelulia [Greek])

Jung [name of Swiss or German derivation]

Juan [name of Spanish derivation]

Marja-Liisa [name of Finnish derivation]

fjord [Norwegian] (var. of fiord)

Silent Js

There are no silent Js in English, except where foreign words have been adopted.

marijuana [Mexican Spanish]

rijsttafel [Dutch]

Exercises

  1. Create a sentence with as many J-words as possible.

Special reading assignments

Two kinds of Joe Pye Weed are common in our area: spotted and sweet. The spotted variety has purple spots on the stems; the sweet smells of vanilla if you crush it.

 

H is for Hens and Chickens

Sempervivum sp.
This succulent garden plant is very hardy. Perhaps you call it a house leek.

Letter combinations

The letter H combined with other letters creates new sounds.

ch—  The H changes the sound of C.

chat, cheese, church, witch

Exception

choir

dh—  The H softens the sound of D a little.

dharma, dhow

 Exception

In compound words, the d and h are pronounced.

childhood

gh— The H is silent.

gherkin, ghost

gh —  The H changes the G to sound like an F.

cough, laugh, slough (pronounced sluff, meaning to shed one’s skin)

gh  The GH combination maybe silent.

eight, slough (pronounced slew, meaning a wetland), through

kh—  The H is silent.

khaki, Khyber Pass

ph—  The H changes the P to sound like an F.

pharmacy, philosophy

Exception

In compound words, the p and h are pronounced.

shepherd

rh—  The H is silent.

rhapsody, rhesus

sh—  The H changes the sound of S.

share, sheep, shore

th—  The H changes the sound of T.

thanks, the, then, thick, thin, thud

Exception

In names, anything can happen.

Anthony, Thomas

wh—  The H changes the sound of W.

what, when, where, who, why

Exercises

  1. Look for letter combinations in words in a book or newspaper. Say them out loud.
  2. Create your own alliteration using one or more of the letter combinations.

Special reading assignment

  1. How do happy hamsters huddle in hutches?
  2. Handymen have hammers.
  3. Hens and chickens are sometimes grown in a thatched roof.

 

B is for Bouncing Bette

Saponaria officinalis
Bouncing Bette or soapwort grows in waste places and roadsides.

Special characters: brackets

Brackets are used to distinguish text in an aside when parentheses are not appropriate.

( ) parentheses

[  ] square brackets

{  } braces or curly brackets

< > angle brackets

Square brackets may indicate a comment or explanation made by the editor, outside of the original text.

Angle brackets are sometimes used to delineate URLs and e-mail addresses.

The opening angle bracket ( < ) may be a symbol for “less than” and the closing angle bracket ( > ), for “more than”.

Special brackets are commonly used to express mathematical functions. Make sure to use the correct keyboard characters to create these brackets.

Special reading assignment

  1. “One cannot borrow beauty; it must be brought up, like a baby, from within.”
  2. Beaver dams, on one hand, may cause floods. On the other, they may maintain a wetland environment.

A is for Asparagus

asparagus
In springtime, you can find asparagus for sale at the local greengrocer.

A is for alliteration
Alliteration repeats the same sound at the beginning of words close enough to produce a kind of rhyming effect. Usually, an alliteration features consonants rather than vowels, but with a little creativity, you can create an alliteration for a vowel.

Exercise

Practise alliterative sentences to strengthen your reading skills. The fun is to see how fast you can go. Here is an example:

An aardvark ate ants, on an African afternoon.