Eeek Alors! In addition to being the first day of the rest of our lives, this is also the first day in the last-but-one week of my chum John’s build of a LEGO Ultimate A-Wing Starfighter model from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, which he is undertaking at only 19 of the 570 instructions a day so as to stretch out the fun.
Accompanying today’s photo, John sent the following message: “So, back to work. We’re just over halfway through the next wing piece. It does start to feel as though — once this is complete — that we’re on the home run as there are no more big construction areas to do. It’s a bit mindboggling how these constructs are designed. I’ve never really wondered about how the folks at LEGO pick and bag the pieces. Something for me to dig into, methinks.”
Now, as you may recall, towards the end of our Day 20 build blog, my chum Aubrey Kagan posed the following question: “What do the words polish, job, and herb have in common?” Well, according to this answer on Quora.com:
- The words polish, job, and herb cannot each be rearranged to form a new English word. They do not have anagrams. They are like the prime numbers of words.
- They are also known as capitonyms, which are words that change their meaning (and sometimes pronunciation) when capitalized; the capitalization usually applies due to one form being a proper noun or eponym.
- If pronunciation differs when they are capitalized, they are also known as heteronyms or heterophones.
This leads us nicely into another “thought for the day.” Currently, we have 26 letters in the modern English alphabet (there have been more or less in years gone by). Unfortunately, there are 42 phonemes — that is, perceptually distinct units of sound — in spoken English, which means we don’t have enough letters to represent all of the sounds we want to make (as an aside, the phonemic inventory in different languages varies from as few as 11 in Rotokas and Pirahã to as many as 141 in !Xũ — you’re welcome).
As a result, the medieval monks who did so much work in establishing English spelling in the Dark Ages (410 – 1066) and Middle Ages (1066 – 1485) played all sorts of tricks with the letters at their disposal. For example, adding an ‘e’ to the end of a word changes the sound of an ‘a’ in the word (“hat” -> “hate”); similarly, doubling up on vowels inside a word changes the sound of things (“hot” -> “hoot”).
So, keeping all this in mind, if you were told you could add an extra letter to the modern English alphabet, what would that letter be? As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions.