Ten things you never knew about... vow­els

Daily Express - - LETTERS BEACHCOMBE­R -

The Cana­dian poet Chris­tian Bok has writ­ten a novel, Eunoia, in which each of its five chap­ters uses only one of the five vow­els, A, E, I, O U.

He is cau­tious about Y, which may be ei­ther vowel or con­so­nant. Chap­ter O of Bok’s book is ded­i­cated to Yoko Ono, whose Y is def­i­nitely con­so­nan­tal.

Eunoia, ac­cord­ing to Bok, means ‘beau­ti­ful think­ing’ and is the short­est word in English in­clud­ing all five vow­els – but it’s not in the Ox­ford Dic­tio­nary.

Euoi is also not in the OED, but is al­lowed in Scrab­ble. It means ‘a Bac­cha­na­lian cry of joy’.

Go­ran Ivani­se­vic is the only Wim­ble­don cham­pion whose full name al­ter­nates vow­els and con­so­nants.

All the con­so­nants, from Bee to Zed, have words for the let­ter. None of the vow­els has such words.

Ab­stemious and face­tious are the two most com­mon words with all five vow­els in the right or­der.

Less com­mon words with that prop­erty in­clude ab­sten­tious (self-re­strain­ing), cae­sious (bluish grey), and trage­dious (tragic).

A vowel is “a voiced breath mod­i­fied by a def­i­nite con­fig­u­ra­tion of the su­per-glot­tal pas­sages, without au­di­ble fric­tion” (Sweet, Primer of Pho­net­ics, 1890).

The com­mon word with most con­sec­u­tive vow­els is ‘queue­ing’, with five in a row…

…though some dic­tio­nar­ies list ‘euouae’ as mean­ing a tone se­quence in me­dieval church mu­sic.

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