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    • Join Date: Apr 2008
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    Double consonants

    Well, the time has come for me to ask a very stupid question that will probably lower my "prestige" level on this forum below 0.

    Maybe I wasn't paying attention in the lower grades, but I never heard an explanation for this one and neither do the people I know. Here it goes.

    In the English language we frequently encounter words that have double consonants. Words like : "assassin", "across", "excellent", etc. Why is that? Is there a specific rule for this? Because I always find it hard to keep my spelling correct, in most cases I just learn the words by heart. It would be much easier for me If I knew something about this issue.

    Thank you in advance and I hope I haven't asked an extremely stupid question.

  1. stuartnz's Avatar
    Senior Member
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    Re: Double consonants

    I'm not a teacher, but I would say that you are unlikely to find any rule that explains the presence of doubled consonants. "Assassin" derives ultimately from "hashish" apparently,
    a. F. assassin, or ad. It. assassino: cf. also Pr. assassin, Pg. assassino, Sp. asesino, med.L. assassnus (OF. forms were assacin, asescin, asisim, hasisin, hassissin, haussasin, etc.; med.L. (pl.) assessini, ascisini, etc.), ad. Arab. ashshshn and ashshiyyn, pl. of ashshsh and ashshiyy, lit. Ďa hashish-eater, one addicted to hashish,
    but the real issue here is simply that English orthography is inconsistent and hampered by a character set that is inadequate for the sounds it is used to represent. Also historical changes such as the Great Vowel Shift have given us all sorts of challenging spellings which basically must be learned by rote.

  2. Editor,
    English Teacher
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    Re: Double consonants

    Like Stuart, I know of no all-encompassing explanation. You'll find individual rules explaining things like doubling letters in comparative or when forming the past participle, say, but our spelling is a bit of a dog's dinner, reflecting the different languages that have mixed to produce modern English.

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