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3

The short answer to the question of why so few English words start with x is that there are relatively few words starting with x (or ξ) in the main source languages from which English has borrowed words, word roots, and prefixes. A check of the x entries in Merriam–Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) indicates that the source languages for ...


2

While this doesn't speak to the etymological reasons for why 'e' specifically is the most frequent letter, there is actually a very interesting statistical reason that there is such a letter: Zipf's law. Given some corpus of natural language utterances, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. Zipf's law was ...


0

The short version is, for the purposes of etymology, "bail" is preferred and "bale" is considered an error. There is a word "bale" but it has quite a different meaning. (It is worth noting that in “The vessel was holed beneath the waterline and the crew bailed [out].” It is not possible to say if the crew jumped over the side or ...


4

Bail out appears to be more common than bale out in BrE, at the moment at least. Ngram Up to about 1970, the sources Google uses for this data had bale as more favoured; perhaps the influence of American English became more effective around that time. The comparatively huge increase in bale out in BrE sources during the Second World War would indicate that ...


0

I’ve lived in England my whole life and would consider “bale” to be incorrect; it’s “bail”.


9

It may be a latinisation of the Greek spelling (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ) - the half-Greek, half-Latin nomina sacra IHS (or IHC) and XPS (as well as inflected forms like IHU, XRI) were often used in manuscripts, including those of Wyclif's Bible. Nomina sacra, like other abbreviations, are usually marked by a horizontal line above them. For example, in MS Lich 10 (written in ...


12

I can't improve upon Andrew Leach's excellent answer but I'll still try my best. I may be right or wrong, take it with a pinch of salt. The name Jesus came into English from the Latin Iesus, a Roman transliteration of the Greek Iesous. It had come into Greek from the late Hebrew or Aramaic Yeshua, which was a common name for Jewish boys at the time of Jesus’...


1

Etymology of Jesus: From Middle English Jhesus, Iesus, from Latin Iēsūs, from Ancient Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs), from Biblical Hebrew יֵשׁוּעַ‎ (yēšū́aʿ), a contracted form of יְהוֹשֻׁעַ‎ (yəhōšúaʿ, “Joshua”). The form יֵשׁוּעַ‎ (yēšū́aʿ) is attested in some of the later books of the Hebrew Bible (Ezra–Nehemiah), and translated as Jeshua or Yeshua in some ...


24

This is part of the alteration of the pronunciation of the "consonantal I" from /j/¹ to /dʒ/. OED has (under John): Middle English spellings of the forename with initial Jh probably show a different origin [to the hn in John], being intended to supply a less ambiguous spelling for the affricate /dʒ/. It may be that there was a brief period of ...


1

The use of an apostrophe to indicate the omission of complete words from a contraction is rare but not unknown (o'clock). Lynne Truss, in 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves', includes 'the attempt to represent regionalisms and the like in print [often accompanied by a forest of apostrophes]' [paraphrasing] in her list of acceptable uses for the apostrophe, but does ...


0

Advice / Advise, Licence / License are noun / verb pairs in BrE. The c or s endings denote whether the word is a noun or a verb. The reason in BrE why there is no word Defense or Offense is because the action of providing a defence is already taken care of by defend, same with offense" and offend. While one may advise by offering advice, or license a ...


2

Colonel is written with l but pronounced the same as kernal (BE: /ˈkɜː.nəl/, AE: /ˈkɝː.nəl/). How did this happen: From borrowing the same word from two different places; Italian colonnello and French coronnel. In the 1500s, English borrowed a bunch of military vocabulary from French, words like cavalerie, infanterie, citadelle, canon, and also coronel. ...


1

I had a discussion on this topic with my friend who is a linguist and he explained it thoroughly. Here's the summary of what he said: Why is the letter Q usually followed by the letter U: The Ancient Greeks got the alphabet from the Phoenicians, who had both /k/ and /q/ as consonants. Greek got these as K (kappa) and Ϙ (qoppa), but Greek only had /k/. So ...


0

I found this discussion of the word spigot very interesting, and also amusing. I love that people find the oddest things to get in a snit about. Back East in Northwest Pennsylvania we pronounced the word spicket, but also spelled it spigot. I was actually playing a scrabble game online when I decided to check on the spelling. There seem to be many words in ...


0

Syllable: Syllable is defined by different phoneticians/phonologists in different ways. Dictionaries also offer their own definitions. Different definitions of 'syllable': An uninterrupted segment of speech consisting of a vowel sound, a diphthong, or a syllabic consonant, with or without preceding or following consonant sounds. Examples: Eye, stay, act and ...


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