Silent “W”

Here I stand, all, all, alone… shrieking into the void about the poor neglected silent “W.” You know, the “W” that appears in “wrought iron.” That silent “W.”

Speaking of wrought iron, why in the world am I constantly reading the word “wreaked” as the past tense of  the verb “to wreak,” as in “to wreak havoc?” The past tense of “to wreak” is wrought, everyone. Even if “wreaked” did not happen to sound exactly the same as “reeked” (and is there a more stomach-turning word than “reeking” in our language? If there is, I don’t want to know about it), the word wrought sounds very much more powerful and resonant. Why would anyone use “wreaked” when “wrought” is so, so much better?

**Note: my inner editor, who never knows when to shut up anyway, is totally in crisis right now. Because in the above paragraph, I used a lot of quotation marks and some italics to designate the word to which I’m referring. All those quotation marks, and there are far too many, look weird and overdone. But using quotation marks and italics in the same paragraph? Appalling inconsistency? Well, I say this, without italics or quotation marks: Pipe down, inner editor. This is a freaking blog post. Chill out and continue your blogging rant already.

Anyway, back to the silent “W.” If I have to read the word “nerve-racking,” minus its silent “W,” one more time, my inner editor and I are both going to flip. It’s “nerve-wracking,” WITH the silent “W.” For goodness’ sake.

And don’t get me started on people who think “baited breath” is acceptable usage. We’re not talking fish bait, we are talking about how your breath has temporarily abated due to shock or stress. “Bated breath” is the order of the day.

My point is, if you’re going to write spine-chilling, overwrought (oh, look, a silent “w”) prose, just please, please, please, do it right.

Cheers and adulation for the silent “W!”

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

2 comments

  1. Agreed wholeheartedly (silent W). But I always put an apostrophe in front of “bated” in bated breath. Am I wrong (silent W)? Is it not short for “abated”? Inquiring minds want (sounded W, hurray) to know (silent K).

    1. B, you are too funny! Thanks for the chuckle! I usually think of the use of an apostrophe to indicate a shortened version of word as being archaic but charming…. like when people used to write ‘phone or ‘bye. (and yes, I tried to use quotation marks, but then the apostrophes weren’t clear, and then what is the point?). I am sure that “bated” is short for “abated,” but for some reason people don’t use apostrophes that way anymore. I say, march on in your quest to be archaic and charming!

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