Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Who can suggest an English word which meets the following criteria:
  1. single word (no compound, no phrase),
  2. inflected forms are allowed,
  3. no proper name or place name,
  4. there's only one monophthong or diphthong in it,
  5. post-vocalically, the word contains at least five consonants in a row,
  6. one can articulate all five consonants (no elisions),
  7. colloquial, relaxed speech style and
  8. the word ends after the last consonant?
A reward is advertised: You will see your name entered in the Hall of Fame (first come first served principle).


  1. A. Any concrete word in mind?
    B. Are archaic inflections all right? -dst easily adds three consonants to stems ending in two.
    C. I take it you don't count syllabic consonants as consonants, or do you?
    D. Nor consonants spelt with several letters as more than one (sch)?
    E. Nor consonant letters not corresponding to sounds (postvocalic -r, occasional -l- and such)?
    F. Nor words with vowels in between that aren't represented but by an apostrophe (-s's)?

  2. @Lipman:
    A: Yes, I have one in mind.
    B: Inflectional forms of earlier stages of English are not excluded, although I'd prefer to see present-day ones.
    C: A syllabic consonant is a consonant is a consonant (well, at least for the purposes of this little quiz).
    D: Spelling is irrelevant. It's all about pronunciation.
    E: As the whole thing is about pronunciation, not spelling, silent letters are irrelevant as well.
    F: No vowel sounds in between that array of consonants are allowed.

    Thanks a lot for your thoughts on this!

  3. (Thou) glimpsedst? Slightly old-fashioned, but six consonants, none of which is even syllabic.

    With syllabic consonants, there must be a number, with the -s for the tertia singularis or the possessive, eg. Holsten's. In fact, there are surely some with several syllabic consonants, maybe with -ton (*Holstenton's), making it at least seven.

  4. Six consonants: handsomest (the d is silent, but there's often ns->nts).


    (I should stop commenting on this thread. That picture is somewhat troubling. :-) )

  5. @Lipman: I'm sorry that the pic troubles you. I must admit it's not appropriate for the squeamish. It was meant as a kind of warning not to pronounce too many consonants in a row.