We all know they exist, but we do not speak their names

We all know they exist, but we don’t speak of them. They are used everyday, but we dare not say them aloud. Their very existence requires us to be silent. And we comply without question. Most of them have no reason to be. They serve no useful purpose, but we accept that they are part of our lives. We write their names, but we don’t say them to anyone. If we ever slip up, do the unspeakable, and actually say their names aloud, we will be mocked and surely corrected. We expect everyone to conform; there are no exceptions. Efforts have been made to systematically eradicate them, but to no avail. They are still with us in our schools, work, and even our homes.


We could all get along just fine without them, although without them we would have no roads or signs. Buildings with columns would no longer exist. Wednesday would no longer be the middle of our work week. And nobody would be able to walk a straight line.


On the other hand, there would be no more pneumonia, no more dumb people. Children would never again stretch the truth.


What forces us into this superfluous silence?


It is the silent letter. And while some silent letters help us to pronounce a word correctly, most do nothing more than take up space. As far as I can tell, every letter in the English language is used as a silent letter – every letter that is except for the mighty “V”. V stands alone in victory against this unspoken foe.  I compiled the list below of the rest of the letters of the English alphabet along with one corresponding word with a silent letter.


a          road

b          dumb

c          scene

d          Wednesday

e          rake

f           staff

g          sign

h          whistle

I           straight

j           marijuana

k          know

l           tall

m         mnemonic

n          column

o          oedipus

p          pneumonia

q          racquetball

r           sarsaparilla

s           pass

t           stretch

u          placque


w         answer

x          faux pas

y          way

z           buzz




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About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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6 Responses to We all know they exist, but we do not speak their names

  1. Erik Johnels says:

    Now im stuck on finding a silent V… There went my productivity for the day:)

  2. Tell me about it. I spent 24 hours searching for a silent v. There were a couple names with a silent v, but that was aobut it.

  3. rainforestrobin says:

    I decided I had to find out who this witty sharp person was in the discussions. So it IS you! 🙂
    This is a very cleaver post. I like it. Excellent writing as well. I will have to come back and read more. Nice blog layout and theme. Good job.

  4. someone says:

    what about Q?

  5. Phil O'Sophy says:

    moot points if I dare;

    X, V, Z – you would be hard pushed to exclude foreign words, nouns, and double letters
    you might let rendeZvous slip through – its been around for hundreds of years whereas Marijuana has not – and is Spanish (but gives two letters), you could save time space and use KnoWleDge for three..

    You would need some savVy to avoId using marIJuana as a jazZ musician to earn your breAd, espicalLy in a posh restaUrant for the penNy wise on weDnEsdaY after eIGHt in febRuary, and the coLOnel wouLd hate yoLks on his saLmon after he shot a leOpard or tWo – if dEliGHted he wilL tip yOu an oldE halFpenNy. “

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