Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why does Xylophone start with an "X"?

Shy is doing really well in school, and we are certainly happy for that. One way we can tell how well she is doing by the questions she asks.

Since she is just in first grade, there is a big focus on reading and writing. She reads wonderfully and loves to write as well. When we go away on vacation next month she will be keeping a journal and I am looking forward to including some of her journal entries right here in this blog. I think it will be interesting for everyone.

She is really a good writer in terms of putting her thoughts together, getting them on the paper and making them flow rather smoothly. In my mind those are great accomplishments for a little girl who just turned 6 in October.

The one area that doesn't work so well is spelling. Yes, there are those words that come up frequently in reading and writing sometimes referred to as "popcorn" words, but there are certainly other names. She has those down pretty good.

When it comes to sounding things out, she gets the phonetics right most of the time even if she doesn't know how to spell a particular word. Because of her ability to keep a story going with a good flow, you can usually tell what the word is supposed to be seeing how it is used in the sentence. All great for Shy, and helps to show us that she is doing well.

The problem comes when she sees a written word, knows what it says and then asks why it isn't spelled differently. This is the real key to our knowing she is doing well.

Last evening she was on the computer and the word on the computer was Xylophone. She knew what it said. Then she asked the question:

"Daddy, Why doesn't Xylophone start with a "Z"?

So not only did she have the spelling correct and the pronunciation correct, but she knew the phonetic sound and the letter that makes that phonetic sound. All good things in my mind. Now, I may be a little bias and making a lot out of something that isn't so big, but I was impressed., and it gives me reason to talk about how wonderful Shy is doing in school.

You know in my dictionary at work, there are only 71 words listed for the letter "X". 47 of those words begin phonetically with the "Z" sound. All of the others just say the letter "X" before whatever follows such as X-Ray or X-Coordinate. Even with all included, "X" takes up less than one page. Why do we have it?

On the other hand "S" has 165 pages.

While I am only asking for the word Xylophone, but keep[ing in mind it goes for all the other words out there. I have one question.

Why does Xylophone start with an "X" instead of a "Z"?


1 comment:

  1. long time lurker here (history prof). Because whoever made up the word (in the nineteenth century) derived it from a Greek word, "xylon" (wood). Given that fact, it would suggest that the person who created the word thought it should have been pronounced "ksai-lophone" and not "zylophone". But we don't have that "ks" sound native in English, so over the years it's been elided into a z.