T is for Tower

Sky scrapers
The top of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.

T is for that and those, this and these

That and this are used variously as pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

That (plural, those) is a commonly used to indicate a thing (or sometimes a person) or an action or a circumstance.

That particular dog over there was the one that ate the turkey.

Those skills are very necessary to succeed in that business.

We won’t do that again.

I would not go that far.

I would not go so far as to say that.

That morning, he was at work.

Used as an adverb to introduce a phrase, the word that is sometimes omitted.

That is one item that we defined as the priority.

That is one item we defined as a priority.

This (plural, these) is similarly used to indicate a thing (or sometimes a person) or an action or a circumstance.

This dog of yours, here under the table, ate some turkey, too.

These are the items that we defined as essential for this (our) business.

What did the team decide about this?

Don’t do this; you may break something.

This morning, I am very busy working.

Generally, this refers to familiar things close by and that to less familiar things further away.

I have this idea about that topic on the news.

The saying, this and that refers to unspecified things that you have been doing or getting.

I went to the store and got just a little of this and that.

Exercises

  1. How do you describe a class of things, such as cars, for example? Create your own taxonomy or classification.
  2. Create sentences using the words this and that in as many ways as you can think of.

Special reading assignment

  1. They told me that Timothy and Thomas treated themselves to ten trials at the terrible tumbled-down tenement.
  2. The CN Tower, which opened in 1976, is over 550 metres tall (over 1815 feet tall). The Edge Walk attraction is a narrow ledge 116 storeys above ground level.

T is for Trillium

Trillium grandiflorum
In Ontario, Trilliums blanket the forest floor each spring.

Silent Ts and THs

The letter T at the end of a word of French derivation is usually silent.

ballet

gourmet

rapport

ricochet

Exceptions

bracelet

concert

The letter T may be silent when it follows an S or an F.

apostle

listen

moisten

whistle

Exceptions

The T may or may not be pronounced, depending on the dialect.

often [derived from oft, Old English], soften [derived from softe, Old English]

The letter T may be slurred or silent when it precedes the digraph CH, depending on dialect.

catch

match

watch

kitchen

The letter T may be slurred, or in some dialects silent, when it is in the middle of three consonants, most often at the end of a word. The preferred pronunciation includes a t-sound.

acts

ducts

students

Exception

mortgage (the t is always silent)

The letter T may be slurred or silent in rapid speech.

gentlemen

Toronto (the second t may disappear)

The digraph TH is slurred or silent in some dialects.

asthma

clothes

isthmus

nor’easter (northeasterly winds)

In some dialects, TH is silent at the end of a word where the digraph is in the middle of two consonants, but the preferred pronunciation includes a th-sound.

depths

lengths

months

Special reading assignment

The Thunder God went for a ride

Upon his favourite filly.

I’m Thor! he cried.

The horse replied,

You forgot your thaddle, thilly.

–Anonymous

The Trillium is the official flower of the province of Ontario, Canada. It grows from a small bulb which gains nourishment from the leaves. If you pick a Trillium, you kill the plant.

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.

N is for Niagara Falls

Horseshoe Falls at Niagara
“The Maid of the Mist” skirts the rapids at the base of Niagara Falls.

N is for Norwegian

English has borrowed words from the Norwegian language.

fjord

floe (ice floe)

klister (ski wax for warm weather)

krill (shrimp-like ocean-dwelling critters)

lemming (a northern rodent given to wide population fluctuations)

ski and skiing words, such as slalom and telemark

 

N is for numbers and numerals

A number is a mathematical value, a quantity used for counting and calculations.

A numeral is a symbol, figure, or word representing a number:

Roman numerals

I = 1

V = 5

X = 10

L = 50

C = 100

D = 500

M = 1000

MDCCLXVII = 1767

 

Exercises

  1. Try your hand at writing the date with Roman numerals.
  2. Write a sentence using one of the Norwegian loan words.

 

Special reading assignment

  1. Niagara Falls tumbles into a great gorge where the Maid of the Mist skirts dangerous whirlpools.

 

M is for Maple Bush

Acer saccharum
Once the maple syrup is ready, you can pour a little on the snow. When it freezes, you eat it like candy.

M is for mondegreen and malapropism

Mondegreens

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,

Oh, where hae ye been?

They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,

And laid him on the green./

And Lady Mondegreen.

From this poem (the last line misheard by American writer Sylvia Wright), comes the term mondegreen, meaning the misinterpretation of a phrase with a similar sound. Other examples include a line from the Christmas song, “Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer.” My friend Olive was convinced that the line

All of the other reindeer

was really

Olive, the other reindeer.

A mondegreen often makes some sort of sense. It may be years before you realize that you have made a mistake.

 Malapropisms

 A character in a 1775 play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Mrs. Malaprop, created light comedy by using words that sound similar but have a different meaning. After that, such crazy errors have been called malapropisms. Mrs. Malaprop herself said,

She’s as headstrong as an allegory (instead of alligator).

Canadian Don Harron’s character Charlie Farquharson made hay with commentary on local and world events, using malapropisms to create double meanings and hilarious satire.

Special reading assignment

  1. In past years, each tree in the maple bush had a spigot and pail. Pails were collected by hand and transported to the sugar shack by horse and wagon.
  2. Now, the spigots drain into tubes that drain into large tubs. The tubs are then transported to the sugar shack by truck.
  3. It still takes about 40 litres of sap to make a litre of maple syrup.

 

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published soon.

 

L is for Lake

Lac Temiskamingue
Some old friends on a walk emerge onto the shore of Lake Temiskaming for a view of Devil’s Rock.

History and significance

The letter L is a consonant and is spelled ell or el. L is derived from the Greek lambda and Semitic lamedh. The original letter lamedh was a picture of an ox goad or a stick for driving oxen.

L is for Latin

Words of Latin derivation account for 29% of words in the Oxford English Dictionary and 15% of words in business usage. Many of these words came into the English language during the time that the Roman Empire dominated England, others came in from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. Latin and Latinized Greek came to be used to create binomial names for plants and animals under the Linnaean system of nomenclature. Some Latin words have entered English via French or Italian. Latin reveals itself in English most often as a prefix or suffix.

lactate, lactose [from Latin, lac, for “milk”]

levity, relieve [from Latin, levis, for “light”]

liberal, liberty [from Latin, liber, for “free”]

lunar, lunatic [from Latin, luna, for “moon”]

lupine [from Latin, lupus, for “wolf”]

Canis lupus (timber wolf)

L is for linguistics

Linguistics is the study of the structure of languages and the nature of human speech.

Special reading assignment

  1. Canada is lucky to have so many lakes as a source of fresh water for drinking and for recreation. Originally, these lakes and the connecting rivers acted as routes for exploration of the country.
  2. Lake Temiskaming, a part of the Ottawa River, is located in a rift valley. The cliffs at Devil’s Rock rise over 90 metres (300 feet) above the lake, which has a depth of 216 metres (over 700 feet). Be sure to wear your life jacket.

F is for Fall Fair

Norwood Fall Fair
The Ferris wheel is always the central attraction at the fall fair.

Consonant — consonant combinations

fb         puffball                                     bf         dumbfounded

fc         off-centre [off-center, US]        cf

fd         half-done                                  df         goldfish

ff          iffy                                            ff          riff-raff

fg         Afghan                                     gf         jugful

fh         selfhood                                   hf         truthful

fj          fjord (or fiord)                          jf

fk         offkey                                       kf         blackfly

fl          flow                                          lf          elf

fm        self-made                                 mf        roomful

fn         deafness                                   nf         unfit

fp         hoofprint                                   pf         campfire

fr         frown                                       rf         perfume

fs         offshoot                                    sf         misfit

ft          gift                                            tf          artful

fw        halfway                                   wf        sawfish

fx         FX                                           xf         exfoliate

fy         verify                                        yf         mayfly

Consonant — vowel combinations

fa         fall                                            af         after

fe         feel                                           ef         effect

fi          find                                           if          if

fo         fob                                           of         often

fu         full                                            uf         ruffle

fy         puffy                                         yf         mayfly

Exercises

  1. Add some more words to the “Consonant — Consonant Combinations” word list and the “Consonant — Vowel Combinations” word list.
  2. Identify suffixes, prefixes, and compound words.
  3. Make sure that you know the meaning of each word. Use it in a sentence.

Special reading assignment

  1. Fogerty and his friend Petroff found fuzzy frozen figs from Finland in the freezer.