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  • Writer's pictureJamie McCarthy

Consonant Encounter.

25th March 2014.

This morning I had an experience that made me feel like the world had warped slightly. It was strange and a bit wonderful too.

I’d spent the early part of the morning reading about consonants and how our mouths make them; something to feed into my voice and singing work. On my journey from Hackney Central to Kentish Town West I continued my reading about fricatives, plosives and so on and starting to formulate some ideas for improvisation games that only used one consonant at a time, so as I continued my walk to my destination in my head I was trying out these games ‘… b –buh – be-bo ------be – buh ----buh’ and so on.

All of a sudden, a man about my own age called to me across the street and rushed over. He had in his hand a piece of paper that had the word ‘tribe’ printed on it. He pointed to it and asked: “If you were to write a ‘t’ how would you write it? Would it be a straight ‘t’?”

I replied that in fact I was more likely to write a ‘t’ that curled at the bottom.

“You shouldn’t write a curly ‘t’. Straight ‘t’s are like you’re having a laugh WITH someone, but curly ‘t’s are like you’re laughing AT someone.’

“If you were to write a ‘t’ for me, what kind of ‘t’ would you write?”

“Well since I know you only like straight ‘t’s and I’d be writing it for you, I’d do a straight ‘t’.”

He asked if I had a pen. I began to take one out of my bag and rather worriedly he asked me what colour it was. I said that it was black.

“Do you have a blue one?”


“Alright. I can live with a black one. Write the word ‘write’ for me … what kind of ‘t’ will you use? Straight or curly?”

“Since I’m writing it for you, I’ll do a straight one … there.”

“You see? That’s a straight ‘t’.”

“Yes. I did a straight ‘t’, because I know that you prefer them.”

At which point he seemed to change the subject rather abruptly.

“Athens is the Capital of Greece.”

“Yes. I went there once. Have you ever been there?”

“Yes. What does the word capital mean? Where does it come from?”

“I think it might come from Latin… maybe ‘capita’, or something meaning ‘head’. So maybe it means like the head town of a country … the main town of a country.”

“Yes. And does ‘capital’ mean anything else?”

“Well it could mean ‘capital’ as in a ‘capital letter’.”

“No, it couldn’t. It isn’t good that it can mean two things. It can only mean one.”

“You prefer it only to mean one thing.”

“Yes. It should only mean one thing and that’s ‘capital city’.”

Pausing slightly, as if to consider …

“Have you ever been to Cornwall?”

“Yes. In fact, one of my sisters has gone there recently to visit a friend.”

‘Don’t say ‘go’, the letter ‘g’ isn’t good to use there. You have to say ‘went’.”

“OK. My sister went down to Cornwall just this week.”

“Yes. That’s right. You shouldn’t use the letter ‘g’ there. It isn’t right.”

He offered me the piece of paper again.

“Can you write the word ‘white’ for me? Just there …”

“OK. But only one more word; my friend is expecting me and I’m late.”

I wrote the word ‘white’, with a straight ‘t’ (since I knew that was the kind he preferred).

“You see. That’s a straight ‘t’. That’s how they should be.”

With that he walked off to the other side of the road and continued on his journey and I, greatly cheered, on mine.

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