O is for Outlook

Outlook, bench, willow
This shady outlook is on the bank of Lake Ontario, a good place to watch for birds.

O is for onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia, Greek for “word-making”, describes a word or name that imitates a sound. Commonly, onomatopoeic words include names for noises and for animals and objects that make noises.

Names for noises






Names for animals that make noises

bobolink (bird)

chickadee (bird)

katydid (insect)

phoebe (bird)

whip-poor-will (bird)

In poetry, onomatopoeia is a device used to suggest the sound being described.

And the West-Wind came at evening,

Walking lightly o’er the prairie,

Whispering to the leaves and blossoms,

Bending low the flowers and grasses…

The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

O is for oxymoron

An oxymoron is the use of contradictory ideas in one expression in speaking or writing, to create an impression. In this case, the prefix oxy— means “sharp” and the suffix —moron, “foolish”.

open secret

original copy

typically odd


  1. Find some instances of onomatopoeia and oxymoron and use them in a sentence.
  2. Use the word “outlook” in two different ways.

Special reading assignment

  1. Of the opposite ovens, only one was often off.
  2. Owls, nocturnal birds of prey, have captured the imagination in many ways. In literature, they represent messengers, wisdom, learning, and Athens. An owl may also be an omen. In real life, they just go about their own business.


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.




knee, kneel





knock, knocker


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.


Unusual K words







mucky muck



  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


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]


  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.


I is for Iris

Iris prismatica var.
There is something delightful about the old-fashioned iris.

Long and short I sounds

The long letter I sounds like the letter in the alphabet and the pronoun, “I”.






These words have the short i sound.








I is rarely, but sometimes, silent.




Diphthongs have a sliding sound, sometimes quite subtle.


acacia, burial, liar, militia, phobia


chief, die, lie, movie, niece


curio, lion, prior, riot, trio


genius, radius, sodium, stadium

Rules of pronunciation

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

piece, retrieve, thief

conceive, receive, receipt


die, lie, tie

science, hierarchy, diet

leisure, weight


  1. Look for words containing diphthongs and pronounce them carefully.
  2. Look for words containing the letter i between two consonants. Is it a long I or a short i? Is the letter E affecting the way the I is said?

Special reading assignment

  1. Instinct influenced Ira’s immediate intentions to irrigate the iris.
  2. The item is inserted inside the icon.

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



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

dharma, dhow


In compound words, the d and h are pronounced.


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


In compound words, the p and h are pronounced.


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


In names, anything can happen.

Anthony, Thomas

wh—  The H changes the sound of W.

what, when, where, who, why


  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.


G is for Goatsbeard

Tragopogon sp.
Reminiscent of a giant dandelion, goatsbeard grows up to three feet tall.

The sounds of G

Hard G sound

game, get, give, ghee, go, gut, guide

Soft G sound

gene, generate, George, giant, ginger, gyre

Silent G 

G is silent in the gerund ending, —ing,

making, paying, walking

when combined with an n (—gn—) or similarly, an m,

assign, foreign, sign, gnat, gnu


and when combined with an h (—gh—). See exceptions below.

flight, nigh, night, right, slough (meaning wetland), weigh


Letter combinations

dg— makes a soft G sound.

edge, fidgety, gadget, hedge, judge

ge— makes a soft G sound, similar to J.

gene and jean sound the same

rage, rag

gh— may have different sounds, depending upon the word, or it may be silent (but not a soft G sound).

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

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

laugh (pronounced laff)

ghee, gherkin (the gh here makes a hard G sound)

gi— may be a soft G sound, similar to J.




gibbon, gild, gingham, give, log-in

gng is silent when followed by an n.

gnaw, gnome, Gnostic, gnu

ing, ung make a nasal sound with a silent g.

king, fling

sung, young


  1. Find a text in a newspaper or online. List the words containing the letter G. How do you pronounce them? Make your own sentences with these G words.

Special reading assignment

  1. The gentle gunner gave the growling dog a good gob of gristle.
  2. George begrudged Guy his ill-gotten gains.