Missing a Letter?

As a small child, few songs had as much power over my imagination as the classic Sesame Street jingle “Silent E,” written and composed by Tom Lehrer. It was hilarious to watch, easy to memorize, and a solid lesson on just how precious each letter is to the whole meaning of the word. For your enjoyment:

Fast forward to the present. Fed from a sturdy diet of William Safire’s “On Language” column and NPR’s puzzle master Will Shortz, I have become an avowed Word Geek.

Back to Silent E. As I said, removing a single letter can have dramatic impact on the word’s meaning, and I’ve been collecting examples recently where a “good” word takes on more sinister tones when a letter goes missing. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Brother and bother
  • Friend and fiend
  • Affluent and effluent
  • Focal and fecal
  • Moral and morel

See how it goes? If you can think of other examples, send them my way.

Side note:  I see this as different from phone autocorrect issues, where more than a single letter is replaced. There are some hilarious examples of that here:  http://www.damnyouautocorrect.com.