Tyler Vendetti
December 09, 2014 6:05 am

In high school, I had a traumatic experience involving the word colonel. My therapist (read: my one remaining Beanie Baby) suggested that I discuss my problems with real people, so I’ve decided to air the events of my past with the Internet. To make a long story short, my presentation on Huckleberry Finn was completely ruined by my mispronunciation of the word colonel (thanks, silent “l”) and I was run out of town a few days later for displeasing the English gods. (They don’t take silent letters lightly.) In an effort to avoid future exile, I compiled a list of all the words with easily-forgotten silent letters. They may not be as wretched as colonel but most of them are still pretty cringe-worthy.

1) Depot (n.): a railroad or bus station; a place where supplies are stored

“Meet me at the dee-pot!” said one unsuspecting Tyler, right before her friend snickered over the phone and answered “Meet you where?” Pronouncing the “t” at the end of depot is a common mistake; unlike wrangle (which I’ll get to later) depot’s “t” doesn’t have the opportunity to blend in with letters around it, preventing you from getting away with your massive error. Remember: it’s dee-POE, like the poet, not dee-POT like that thing you cook pasta in.

2) Rapport (n.): a harmonious connection or relation

Similar to depot, rapport has a silent “t” that should be completely ignored, just like your homework or your adult responsibilities. Why? As one Internet commenter so perfectly put it, “because it comes from French, the language of silence and unnecessary complexity.” Okay, I added the “unnecessary complexity” part, but only to make the statement more accurate. With the “t” out of the picture, this word sounds more like “rap-pore” than “rap-port.”

3) Phlegm (n.): thick mucus discharged through the mouth

If you were able to get past that wonderful definition, congratulations: you’ve made it farther than most. Here’s a fun tidbit to reward you for all your hard work: phlegm comes from the Latin word phlegma, which was mixed with the Old French word “fleume.” The hard “g” sound got lost in this transition, resulting in the disgusting variation that we have today. To make matters worse, the “g” is still pronounced in some of the word’s other forms, like phlegmatic.

4) Mnemonic (adj.): assisting or intended to assist the memory

What if I told you that mnemonic started off as a typo? That a careless scribe wrote down the first “m” by accident and was too lazy to go back and fix it? Would you believe me? No? Good. Because that’s not what happened. The real story is much less interesting. From the Greek word mnemonikos, meaning “of or pertaining to memory,” mnemonic refers to any device or method that helps you remember something. It’s most commonly used on exams for remembering obscure list items. Mnemonic devices are great for those sorts of things, until you memorize four or five of them and end up forgetting what they all stand for. (“What are the steps in the scientific methods? Let’s see, was it PEMDAS? Or ROY G BIV? Or PASTASAUCE? Ugh, I hate when this happens!”)

5) Receipt (n.): a written or printed statement acknowledging that something has been paid for; the action of receiving something

Back in the day (during the Renaissance, that is), English scholars, in an attempt to repopularize Latin, ran around adding extra letters to words like “debt” and “receipt” to link them back to their Latin roots. (Receipt comes from recipere while debt comes from debitum.) Rather than change their pre-established pronunciation of the word, people decided to simply ignore these new letters, and continued to pronounce “receipt” as “receit.” This is precisely why we can’t have nice things, Internet. This is why.

6) Wrangle (v.): to have a long and complicated dispute

I promised I would come back to this word, so here it goes. While the mysterious “w” in wrangle is hard to mispronounce (the “w” and the “r” blend together so it ends up sounding like “rangle,” which is in fact the correct way to say it), it’s very easy to mess up on paper, and your English teacher will have no problem etching the “w” into your paper in red pen to remind you what you did wrong.

7) Corps (n.): an organized part of the military

“Oh, corps, why do you hate me so? Why do you feel the need to taunt me with two silent letters instead of one? What did I ever do to you??” This is the conversation I have in my head every time this word pops up. As if one silent letter wasn’t bad enough, corps drops both the “p” and the “s” when it’s pronounced, creating a word that sounds more like “core” than “corpse.”

I don’t genuinely hate many things in life besides maybe coconut flavoring, but silent letters are too obnoxious too ignore. Well, technically you do ignore them when you pronounce the word. . .but. . .you know what I mean. What silent letters constantly trip you up?

Featured image via QuickMeme.com.

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