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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

Euphony and the permutation of letters



s. 133. 1. Let there be two syllables of which the one ends in m, and the other begins with r, as we have in the syllables num- and -rus of the Latin word _numerus_.

2. Let an ejection of the intervening letters bring these two syllables into immediate contact, _numrus_. The m and r form an unstable combination. To remedy this there is a tendency to insert an intervening sound.

In English, the form which the Latin word _numerus_ takes is _number_; in Spanish, _nombre_. The b makes no part of the original word, but has been inserted for the sake of _euphony_; or, to speak more properly, by a euphonic process. The word euphony is derived from [Greek: eu] (_well_), and [Greek: phone] (_f[^o]nae_, a voice).

s. 134. In the words _give_ and _gave_ we have a change of tense expressed by a change of vowel. In the words _price_ and _prize_ a change of meaning is expressed by a change of consonant. In _clothe_ and _clad_ there is a change both of a vowel and of a consonant. In the words _to use_ and _a use_ there is a similar change, although it is not expressed by the spelling. To the ear the verb _to use_ ends in z, although not to the eye. All these are instances of the _permutation_ of letters.

_Permutation of Vowels._


to [)e], as _man_, _men_. a to oo, as _stand_, _stood_. a to u, as _dare_, _durst_. a to [=e], as _was_, _were_. ea to o, as _speak_, _spoken_. ea = [)e] to ea = [=e], as _breath_, _breathe_. ee to [)e], as _deep_, _depth_. ea to o, as _bear_, _bore_. i to a, as _spin_, _span_. i to u, as _spin_, _spun_. [=i] = ei to o, as _smite_, _smote_. i = ei to [)i], as _smite_, _smitten_. i to a, as _give_, _gave_. i = ei to a, as _rise_, _raise_. [)i] to e, as _sit_, _set_. ow to ew, as _blow_, _blew_. o to e, as _strong_, _strength_. oo to ee, as _tooth_, _teeth_. o to i, as _top_, _tip_. o to e, as _old_, _elder_; _tell_, _told_. [)o] to e, as _brother_, _brethren_. [=o] = oo to i, as _do_, _did_. o = oo to o = [)u], as _do_, _done_. oo to o, as _choose_, _chose_.

_Permutation of Consonants._

f to v, _life_, _live_; _calf_, _calves_. th to dh, _breath_, _to breathe_. th to d, _seethe_, _sod_; _clothe_, _clad_. d to t, _build_, _built_. s to z, _use_, _to use_. s to r, _was_, _were_; _lose_, _forlorn_.

In _have_ and _had_ we have the _ejection_ of a sound; in _work_ and _wrought_, the _transposition_ of one.

_Permutation of Combinations._

ie = i to ow, as _grind_, _ground_. ow to i = ei, as _mouse_, _mice_; _cow_, _kine_. ink to augh, as _drink_, _draught_. ing to ough, as _bring_, _brought_. y (formerly g), to ough, as _buy_, _bought_. igh = ei to ough, as _fight_, _fought_. eek to ough, as _seek_, _sought_.

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