Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The elusive scraperfish

The elusive scraperfish

Word-lovers go to great lengths to help others make sense of this nutty language we love so well. The Elusive Scraperfish is one such effort. It’s not elusive because of its astounding camouflage or because it buries itself in the muck. It’s elusive because so many people don’t even know it’s there. Such is the nature of bottomdwellers that concern themselves with English pronunciation rules.


Meet the scraperfish.

It scrapes along on the bottom of the sea, looking for its tunnel-dwelling prey. As its rough belly scrapes along the ocean floor, it makes the sound kkkkkk, kkkkkkk, kkkkkk, signifying to those in the know that the letter C (masquerading as a gill), generally makes the K sound. However, when the scraperfish spots its tunnel-dwelling prey, it sucks it up, savors it, & says sssss, sssss, sssss.

The observant reader will notice the nature of the scraperfish’s prey. When the letter C is followed by an E, I, or Y, it makes the S sound (cellophane, cinnamon, cyborg…). Otherwise, it makes the K sound (coliform, curly, cadaver…). The scraperfish rule even works when a C is doubled, as in accident & accelerate. When a C is followed by the letter H, all bets are off, but in other cases, it’s amazing how consistently this pronunciation rule applies.

What’s cooler still is that there’s a second form of scraperfish.



Amazingly, it hunts the same exact prey, giving us
gelatin, gin, & gymnasium in the presence of its prey, and gasoline, gogo boots, & guru otherwise. Sadly, this second fish’s rule doesn’t work when g doubles up. Also, some high profile words like begin & girl ignore our friend the scraperfish. Still, it applies the majority of the time.









Okay, so how many of you word nerds have already met the scraperfish? And who can contribute other unlikely tales to support English spelling or pronunciation rules? Please use the comments section to let me know.

6 comments:

  1. I had not had the pleasure of meeting the Scraperfish before this. Thanks everso for the introduction. :-)

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  2. Hey Anne -- what I find most fascinating is that most of us understand the rule 100% through the patterns we've learned without ever having identified the rule.

    Thanks for coming by.

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  3. This made me laugh. Do you do your own illustrations? They're great!

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    1. Hey Sondra - good to know a little laughter's happening in this nutty world. And yes, I do these very high-tech illustrations. Thanks for coming by.

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  4. I have never heard of this Scraperfish, but I admire his creativity. It is interesting that without knowing the rules we know how to read these words. I'm helping my grandsons as they learn to read. I find myself answering their pronunciation questions with, "Well, that's just the way it is." Ha! They will get there anyway. We all have.

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    1. Hey Christine - English does have a steaming heap of "well-that's-the-way-it-is" spellings. It amazes me how consistent this rules is. And thanks for popping in.

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