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    #1

    Silent letters

    Hello!

    I am new to this forum. I happened to bump into this site accidentally while I was looking for something else. One click led to another and boom! I got myself registered!
    One of the key reasons why I registered myself was my insatiable hunger to get better at English.
    I don't consider myself bad .But, I want to get better. I want to use the complex words, Idioms,Phrases etc....whatever English has to offer !!
    Usage of such words just reinforces my confidence. ( Not tat I lack any of it ).

    What I wish to ask in this Forum is about usage of certain letters in words which are not pronounced while speaking. In other words, Silent letters in certain words.

    This query came up when I was in the US on a leisure trip. I was at a grocery store looking for Green Chillies (called so in India). When I asked one of the attendant's there, they gave me a look which was incomprehensible! As if, they had not heard such a name. I guess most of you here must be having the same reaction as the woman at the store did.
    I was actually looking for Jalapeno Peppers!
    When I asked her for 'Jalapeno Peppers instead, she still didn't seem to understand. I was perplexed at such a reaction. I just kept revisiting that incident hoping to find an answer for such a reaction.I was guessing, may be it was the accent. But, I actually don't have an accent. ( Neither the US nor the UK nor an Indian accent). My accent is neutralised. Later that day, my Brother told me the reason. He told me the way Jalapeno is pronounced.Until then, I used to pronounce the word at its face value (ie. with the 'J').We are not introduced to this word in India as this particular fruit/vegetable is not habitual to India.So the pronunciation. Not that I validate my wrong pronunciation. Just an insight! :)
    This brings me to my question:
    Why are certain words mostly with the letter 'J' silent? Eg. Jalapeno, Mojito, Jose (name )
    How can a person who is new to the word decide on its pronunciation?
    Is there a rule w.r.t such letters?
    Please explain.
    Hoping for members here to enlighten me on this.

    Thanx In advance!
    Kavya Nagesh

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    #2

    Re: Silent letters

    Hi, Kavya! Welcome to the forums!

    First, the three words you mentioned (jalapenos, mojitos, and Jose) are of Spanish/Hispanic origin. The letter 'j' in Spanish when spoken sounds like an English 'h'. Non-Spanish words such as jasmine, jewelry, and junk have a hard 'j' sound.

    Second, I have a strong suspicion that the grocery store you visited was located in a region where green chiles are not a frequent menu item or an item that is served at home. Thus, the attendant was baffled by your request. Green chiles are commonly used in the American southwest and in regions that have a significant Hispanic population.

    I'm curious, in what city were you visiting when your request was made to the attendant?


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    #3

    Re: Silent letters

    Hi Amigos!

    Thank you for the reply.
    So you mean to say all words with the letter 'J' which have been derived from Spanish Language are pronounced like a 'h' in English?

    The store I visited didn't have Green Chillies (Except the canned ones). I was visiting Texas.
    Is it? That is interesting to know. I had presumed Americans do not use Green Chillies :) All thanx to my poor knowledge of your country. :)

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    #4

    Re: Silent letters

    Spanish words that are borrowed into English, like Jalapeno, usually keep the Spanish pronunciation of the "J."

    Some borrowings from foreign languages become "Anglicized" in pronunciation over time. So a really old borrowing might be pronounced more like standard English, but I can't think of an example from Spanish right now.

    (Ask the Brits how they say "filet," (a beef steak).)

    Jalapeno and mojito are fairly new word in English and do not look to be on their way to changing pronunciation.

    (A note on Jalapeno. It's actually "Jalape˝o," and "˝" is pronounced different than "n." But that sound is not native to English, so this "˝" is often Anglicized as an "n.")

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    #5

    Re: Silent letters

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post

    ... a really old borrowing might be pronounced more like standard English, but I can't think of an example from Spanish right now.
    Paella, peccadillo, pina colada, Dave?

    Rover
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 13-Aug-2010 at 19:07.

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    #6

    Re: Silent letters

    How do you say it? What I've heard sounds Spanish to me. Pie-A-Ya, with a long A in the middle.

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    #7

    Re: Silent letters

    I say (incorrectly, I know) pie-ella. I think that's pretty well anglicised.

    (I've just added two more to my last post.)

    Rover

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    #8

    Re: Silent letters

    Pecadillo is a good example.


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    #9

    Re: Silent letters

    @ Dave and Rover : Thank you :)

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    #10

    Re: Silent letters

    Quote Originally Posted by kavyanagesh View Post
    Hi Amigos!

    Thank you for the reply.
    So you mean to say all words with the letter 'J' which have been derived from Spanish Language are pronounced like a 'h' in English? We can never say all words with the letter 'j' which have been derived from Spanish language are pronounced like an 'h' in English. Off the top of my head I can think of the word 'jalopy' which has a hard 'j' sound.

    The origin of the word 'jalopy' is unknown. It is possible that the non Spanish-speaking New Orleans-based longshoremen, referring to scrapped autos destined for Jalapa ('J' pronounced as 'h'), Mexico scrapyards, pronounced the destination on the palettes "jalopies" rather than multiples or possessive of Jalapa.

    The store I visited didn't have Green Chillies (Except the canned ones). I was visiting Texas. I am shocked that any Texan does not know what a jalapeno is! Jalapenos and green chiles are a main ingredient in many Texan recipes and restaurant menus!
    Is it? That is interesting to know. I had presumed Americans do not use Green Chillies :) All thanx to my poor knowledge of your country. :) The vast majority of Americans are familiar with green chiles. They may not like to eat them but they certainly know what they are!
    `

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