How Silent Letters in Words From the English Language Reveal Their Specific Etymological Origins

In a taciturn episode of their incredibly informative whiteboard series for Mental Floss, linguist Arika Okrent and illustrator Sean O’Neill verbally and visually explain how the seemingly unrelated silent letters in English language words actually reveal their etymological origins.

Silent letters can make English frustrating but they can also give away connections between related words that you might not realize share a history. What is that ‘l’ doing in talk? Not much pronunciation-wise these days, but it shows how the verb came from the same source as tell and tale. When you’re talking you’re tale telling.