Secrets Given Away By Silent Letters

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00:04 Silent letters can make English frustrating but they can also give away connections between

00:09 related words that you might not realize share a history.

00:13 What is that ‘l’ doing in talk?

00:16 Not much pronunciation-wise these days, but it shows how the verb came from the same source

00:21 as tell and tale.

00:23 When you’re talking you’re tale telling.

00:26 There’s a similar reason for the l in stalk.

00:30 Where do you actually hear the l?

00:32 In the related words steal and stealth.

00:38 F-R-I-E-N-D.

00:40 That letter-i can seem so unnecessary and hard to remember, but without it, how would

00:46 we see that friend came from the construction free-end meaning one who is loved (the original

00:53 sense of the verb ‘free’ being ‘to love’).

00:56 It also lets us see that friend is the opposite of FIEND, from fi-end, one who is hated.

01:05 What is that b doing in plumber?

01:07 The same thing it’s doing in the periodic table symbol for lead.

01:12 That comes from the Latin word for lead, plumbum.

01:15 The idea of a plumber was first conceived as “someone who words with lead” what

01:20 most pipes were made out of then.

01:23 There’s a ‘w’ in ‘answer’? an-swer?

01:27 Why yes, that’s pretty much where it comes from, basically anti-swear, or make an oath

01:34 in opposition.

01:36 When you have to answer the charges against you, you must swear the against the charges.

01:43 There isn’t even a shadow of that first D in the pronunciation of Wednesday, despite

01:48 the method most of us use for remembering how to spell it “wed-nez-day”—that actually

01:54 gets you closer to the origin of the word, Woden’s Day, named for the pagan Anglo-Saxon

02:00 god Woden.

02:03 What does that useless W in two get us?

02:06 For one, we can see the deep indo-european roots that unite languages as distant as German

02:11 (zwei), Russian (dva), and Sanskri (dva).

02:17 It also reminds us that words like twin (meaning two-ed) twist and twine com from notions of

02:24 two-ness. (can only twist twine if you’ve got at least 2 things)

02:30 We could probably do just as well without the H in heir, but then it might not be so

02:35 clear that the heir is the one who inHERits.

02:40 These letters might be quiet, but they do say something.

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