Here’s the word that makes spelling bees possible:
aphthong – (n.) a silent letter; a letter or combination of letters used in the spelling of a word, but not in the pronunciation.
Some languages don’t have these. I studied Thai briefly. They don’t have spelling bees in that language. Most words are only one syllable long, and the spelling is highly predictable. English has tons of aphthongs, on the other hand, because we borrow so many words from so many other languages, and because our pronunciation rules have shifted over the centuries. I found a word that’s six letters long, and half the letters in it are aphthongs. Want to try to guess it? I’ll give the answer below.
(Note: the Thai language also doesn’t have a word that means “thing.” How they survive without it is a mystery to me.)
So go! Use the word aphthong in a sentence this week. Use it silently if you need to. And come back next week for another fantastic Word of the Week!