We know that some letters in some English words are silent: love, gnome, climb, indict, Etobicoke, etc. They are written but not pronounced. However, other words, as fewer English learners may have noticed, contain sounds that come from nowhere — we just hear the sounds without seeing any corresponding letters. For example, there is no w or u in one, but we do hear a [w] sound in it. Also, in colonel there is no r, but we have to make that [r] sound, like [KER-nal]. Can you think of more words like them?

One book I borrowed from the public library is somewhat interesting. It’s titled 100 Words Almost Everyone Mixes Up or Mangles, compiled by the editorial staff of the American Heritage Dictionaries. While you can buy this book from a random bookstore, I’d like to share these words with you. Of course, I can’t and won’t poach the original content. I’m going to introduce to you some of these words every now and then and give a hyperlink to each word, so you can learn its definition. All these vocabulary posts, including this inaugural post, have the hashtag #the100words in order for you to search for them.


How to Use Also, Furthermore, Moreover, and Besides?

Some students are wondering how they should use also, furthermore, moreover, and besides to achieve correct transitions. Here is an example for you.

My sister believes that McD is the best restaurant in town, but I think that KFC can beat it. The well-known actor Amy has endorsed KFC. The famous comedian Luke also thinks highly of KFC. Furthermore, food scientists indicate that KFC sells more nutritious food. Moreover, KFC itself highlights the nutritional value. In light of the overwhelming celebrity endorsement and the remarkable nutritiousness, I should say that KFC is definitely a better choice. Besides, my sister has been to McD only once and has never been to KFC, whereas I have experienced all the restaurants in town.

Now let’s break down the reasons why I believe KFC can beat McD:
1. Celebrity 1 (Amy) says KFC is good;
2. Celebrity 2 (Luke) says KFC is good;
3. Food scientists say KFC is good;
4. KFC itself has a good business concept;
5. My sister is underqualified for praising McD.

1 ← 2 : simple addition
1 ← 2 | 3 : scientists’ opinion parallel to celebrities‘
1 ← 2 | 3 [4] : KFC’s business concept (on a different level)
1 ← 2 | 3 [4] *5 : my sister’s lack of knowledge as a “bonus”

Bottom line:
(i) also – simple addition;
(ii) furthermore – to pile up evidence with a parallel reason;
(iii) moreover – to pile up evidence with a different kind of reason;
(iv) besides – [a] to indicate that the previous reason(s) is (are) already perfect and here is one more little thing to mention. You can accept it happily as a bonus. – [b] to indicate that even if the previous reason(s) is (are) unconvincing or erroneous, here is one more thing that will make the whole argument unworthy of a conclusion. You have no alternative but to accept it and forgo any conclusion.

I Hope This Email Finds You Well

A student of mine once asked about this email opening sentence. She didn’t know how an email, as an inanimate object, would literally FIND the recipient. Yesterday, I came across the same question again on Zhihu, a popular Chinese Q&A site paralleled by Quora.

It should be noted that the word “well” here is not an adverb but an adjective, which describes a state of good physical health or satisfaction.

— How is your sister?
— She’s very well. Thank you.

Also, the verb “to find” does not mean “to obtain”. Instead, it means “to experience” or “to look at”.

My sister quit the job because she found it much too demanding. (= She regarded the job as extremely onerous.)

Therefore, such parlance as “this email finds you well” actually employs the tool of personification: when this email gets to you, I hope that it (on my own behalf) witnesses the fact that you are sound in both body and mind.

In English, “you” can be one person or a group of people. In light of this, 「展信佳」(to a singular recipient) and「闊府康泰」(to an extended family, usually of high social standing) might be qualified Chinese equivalents.

With the above being said, I won’t expect anyone to use it, for it sounds a bit old-fashioned and hackneyed to me. In this Digital and Information Age, we’re suffering infobesity to a great extent. When trying to reach someone, always bear in mind that brevity is a virtue. Instead of being annoyingly wordy, simply use I hope you’re well, which should sound much better.