July 16, 2013

Unpronounceable boat names

WHAT IF YOU HAD a boat name that couldn’t be pronounced?  Not merely because it was difficult to pronounce, but because it consisted totally of letters that were silent. How would you send a Mayday message, for example, if you couldn’t tell anybody what boat you were on?

You might not realize it, but there is a chance that the name of your boat is silent. Polyanthus is a silent word, for instance. You cannot say it aloud. Callipygian is another. Impossible to vocalize.

Imagine that the latent anarchist within you wants to name your boat Pigshyt.

“You can’t call it that,” the club commodore tells you gruffly. “It’s unheard of!”

“Precisely, Mr. Commodore, you can’t say it. That’s why it’s unheard of,” you point out. “The P is silent, as in psychiatrist. The I is silent, as in bait. The G . . . they’re all silent. The whole word is silent.”

As a matter of fact there are 17 letters in English that have two or more pronunciations, at least one of which is silent. That’s more than half the alphabet, including all the vowels. See here:

Silent      As in

Y              say          

P              psychiatrist

B              plumber

G              gnome, sign

S              island

O              phoenix

E              pole

H              honest

A              cocoa

C              scent

I               bait

T              castle

K              knife

L               talk

U              guitar

W             wrap

N              hymn


So be very careful when you choose a name for your boat, otherwise you may not be able to tell anybody what it is. They say silence is golden, but it’s not always the best form of communication in an emergency.

Today’s Thought
To communicate through silence is a link between the thoughts of men.
— Marcel Marceau

I have to laugh when I hear owners of Toyota Priuses and Honda Civic hybrids arguing over who uses the least gasoline.  Christopher Columbus got the best mileage ever — he averaged several thousand miles per galleon.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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