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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Well, what do you know (cuh-no)?

June 12, 2007

Recently, my mother-in-law was reading an Amanda Pig book with my daughter. Anna paused at the word "know," and my mother-in-law laughingly said, "Oh, that word is /cuh-no/!" — making a joke by suggesting that the in the word is actually voiced, or articulated. Anna thought that was very funny, and proceeded to find and read several more examples within the book ("cuh-nee" for knee) ("cuh-nocked" for knocked). It turned into a sort of cute word search.

So, what is the origin of the in the cluster? According to Richard Venezky's book The American Way of Spelling (a good book for those interested in the structure and origins of American English orthography), the was little used in Old English, and some time in the middle of the 17th century, /kn/ was leveled to /n/. And there you have it. You "cuh-no?"

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"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person ..." —

Carl Sagan