D is for Daisy

Compositae
Did you ever pluck the petals from a daisy, one by one, “He loves me; he loves me not?”

D is for digraphs, doubles and disappearing

Letter combinations (digraphs)

dg─, usually placed before an e, i, or y, sounds like j.

badge, dodgy, judge, wedge, widget

dh─ is pronounced with a silent h.

dhow, dhoti

Double Ds

English words with double consonants are inconsistent, so there is no reliable rule.

Usually, a double-d serves to signal that the preceding vowel is short rather than long.

buddy, hidden, ladder, wedding

bade, fade, hide, laden, wide

Exceptions:

Sometimes a single d acts as a double-d.

body, credit, educate, study

Three-letter words ending in d usually have a short vowel.

bad, fad, hid, lad, wed

Silent or disappearing Ds

The letter D may or may not be silent or slurred in some words, depending on the dialect of the speaker.

handkerchief, grandson

sandwich, Wednesday, handsome

Exercises

How many words can you think of with double d‘s? Say them out loud.

Now, find similar words with only one d. Does the vowel sound different?

Where do the words, dhow and dhoti, come from?

 

C is for Columbine

Aquilega vulgaris
The Garden Columbine blooms in many colours in spring and early summer.

Sounds of C

A hard sound, like K, when c comes before a, o, u, and consonants.

coffee, cupcake, school

A soft sound, like S, when c comes before i, e, y.

circle, celery, cyanide, recipe, fascinate

 A hiss sound, like sh, when —ci— (or sometimes —ce—) comes before a vowel, inside a word. [Infrequent.]

conscience, social

Exceptions:

These words do not have the sh hiss:

science; society

Silent Cs

Some words that derive from Middle English are pronounced the same as they always were, but the spelling was changed to add a c, similar to French or Latin, which were fashionable languages at the time.

indict, indictment, indictable offence

Other words were imported into English from another language.

yacht [Dutch], Tucson [Papago Indian]

 See also, Letter combinations (digraphs), below, for words containing sc.

scientist

Double Cs

English words with double consonants are inconsistent, so there is no reliable rule.

Usually, a double C serves to signal that the preceding vowel is short rather than long.

accord, accuse, occupy

Rather than a double C or a double K, a CK is commonly used. The hard C sound is preserved or emphasized, even when, with the following vowel (I, E, or Y), you would expect a soft C sound.

chicken, hockey, sticky wicket

Exceptions:

Sometimes a QU is used to preserve the hard C sound.

liquor, chequers (also, checkers [US])

Sometimes a double C is used in a word to express both a hard C and a soft C sound.

accent

Sometimes a single C acts like a double C.

crocodile, decade, second 

Letter combinations (digraphs)

ch

c and h together create a distinct sound, a digraph.

cherry, cheque, chi, chutney, church

Exceptions:

chemistry, crochet, chenille, Christ, chronology

ck

c and k together create a digraph.

brackets, crickets, flock, quick, rocket

ct  is an uncommon letter combination

act, fact

sc,sce

s and c together are a digraph that emphasizes the s sound.

abscess, acquiesce, descent, effervesce, fluoresce, muscle, rescind, scene, scent, science, scissors

Exceptions:

In these words, the s and c are both pronounced.

school, scholar, score, scream, scoundrel, muscular

Rules of pronunciation

i before e, except after c, gives us the sound of ee (or ē).

conceive, receive, receipt, retrieve

Exceptions:

science, hierarchy, diet 

Special reading assignment

 

  1. Can’t you come to the cottage in October to check on the locks?
  2. Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake.                   — Jim Davis

 

B is for Bridge

This bridge spans the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada.
This bridge spans the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada.

The Letter B

B is a consonant and may be spelled, “bee”.

B is derived from the Greek letter beta and the Phoenician and Hebrew, beth. The original meaning of beth was “house”.

Beta means second. For example, the beta version of software is the next version, usually on trial and somewhat incomplete.

Silent Bs

Words with a silent b include

bdellium (a mineral), and subtle.

Words that end in bt

debt, doubt

Words that end in mb

bomb, climb, comb, crumb, door jamb, dumb, lamb, limb, numb, plumb, succumb, thumb, tomb, womb

Note that words ending in bt or mb keep the silent b, even with the addition of suffixes.

debtor, bomber, plumber

Exceptions

limber, timber [pronounce the b]