Vernacular Spectacular #20: “silent e” vs. “magic e”

We are talking about the end of hope here. And why hope isn’t pronounced “hoppy.”

To be clear, it’s super-cute when Beckie says “magic e” instead of “silent e.” But we are talking about a hypothetical linguistic merger here that will affect the whole of English-speaking humanity, and so we must be scientists.

“Silent e” is straightforward. Don’t say the e at the end of the word. “Magic e” sounds like a mysterious little enchantment has been bestowed upon the word. Maybe you are supposed to say the “e” extra loud, or in an astonished whisper, or while doing jazz hands. Who knows? Then again, with “silent e,” it seems like hope should just be pronounced “hop.” Magic e does work with the idea that the rest of the word is also transformed, so the short vowel becomes a long vowel.

If it is magic, though, it’s a pretty fickle magic. After all, love does not rhyme with cove, nor does give with five. But then again, what is magic without unpredictability?

Jeremy’s winner: magic e

2 thoughts on “Vernacular Spectacular #20: “silent e” vs. “magic e”

  1. I hope I’m remembering this correctly, but I think ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck does this thing on NFL PrimeTime where he showcases great throws and calls them PrimeTime Dimes (as in, the throw is on a dime), but says that “the e is silent” (as a funny reference to his first name: Tim). And then I remember Amy and I wondering why he thought that the difference between Tim and Time is that “the e is silent.” It seems that a non-silent e makes Time “Timmy,” not “Tim.” And I don’t think he goes by Timmy. So, what I think he means to say is that “the i is short,” not “the e is silent.” Perhaps a better way of saying “the e is silent” is “the e is absent.” Or, better still, “the e is magic.”

    …Am I making any sense here??? Can your fact-checkers look into this?

  2. We have our staff working on this right now. This being Australia, all staff work is done by convict laborers, and so it might take them awhile.

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