January 8, 2007

Can You Hear the L?

The letter L is usually not the first letter one thinks of when silent letters are discussed. Three years ago, however, I began compiling a list of words in which an L is silent, and many of these words are quite common (think “walk” or “should”). I have just added another word to my list of such words on my Web site (“Silent Ls”). The new word is “malkin,” an old British word with a variety of meanings: a slattern, a scarecrow, a particular kind of mop, a cat, or a hare. “Malkin” is one of those words that can be pronounced with or without an L sound. (More information on the word is available at Dictionary.com.)

My interest in silent Ls has become something of a crusade to get people to eliminate L sounds from common words that shouldn’t have them. How many words in this list do you mistakenly pronounce with an L: almond, alms, balk, calm, embalm, folk, palm, salmon, yolk? My current list of silent-L words is more than 50 items long. Potential additions to the list are welcomed.

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