Silent Knight

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Calling all spelling bee champs. Many English words have letters that aren't pronounced, and for no good reason. Puzzle guy Will Hines shines the harsh light of day on words that try to sneak by with a silent, but deadly, consonant.


Let's welcome our two new contestants.


EISENBERG: Anagha Apte, welcome. And Josh Sherman, hello. OK, Anagha, you have been on "Jeopardy!"?

ANAGHA APTE: Yes, I've been on "Jeopardy!"

EISENBERG: How did it go?

APTE: Not so well, it was about 10 year - it was about 10 years ago. I was still in college and it was regular "Jeopardy!"

EISENBERG: You were in college but you did regular "Jeopardy!"?

APTE: I did, yeah, and...

EISENBERG: That's pretty impressive.

APTE: Well until I got up there.


APTE: Yeah, I didn't really know anything...


APTE: ...obvious [unintelligible], so I a - by the end, actually by the Final Jeopardy! Round, if I had wagered everything and gotten the Final Jeopardy! right, I still couldn't have beaten the leader, but...


APTE: was fun.

EISENBERG: Yeah, you're going to be great. And Josh, you - oh, you have a classical music radio show.


EISENBERG: You did? You don't have anymore?

SHERMAN: No, not since college.

EISENBERG: And you're really into classical music?


EISENBERG: And what - do you play?

SHERMAN: I own trumpets, I don't play them.

EISENBERG: You own them. You collect them, but don't play them?

SHERMAN: Exactly.

EISENBERG: Do you refuse to play them?

SHERMAN: No, I don't refuse, I just don't get around to it.


EISENBERG: OK. Well we're playing a wonderful game called Silent Knight, but there's a catch. Will.

WILL HINES: There is a catch, Ophira. So since this is radio, contestants, you couldn't tell that knight was spelled k-n-i-g-h-t. Now don't I look smart?


HINES: Well you see many English words have letters that aren't pronounced for no good reason, so this game's going to exploit that and see how quickly you can suss out these silent but deadly letters. So the way it works is I'm going to give you a group of four words, you have to pick the word that has the silent consonant, and then tell me what that consonant is. And the trick to this is speed, so whoever rings in first will get to answer. Right? So four words, you tell me the word and what the silent letter is, all right?

Winter, spring, summer, autumn. Anagha.

APTE: Autumn.

HINES: And what's the silent letter?


HINES: That is correct.


HINES: Crayon, stapler, scissors, calculator. Josh.

SHERMAN: Scissors.

HINES: And the silent letter?


HINES: Very good.


HINES: That sounds like a trumpet player to me. Mucus, vomit, phlegm, urine.

APTE: Phlegm.

HINES: And the silent letter?


HINES: That is right.

EISENBERG: Yes. That was a tough one.


HINES: That's the happiest I've said any of those words.

EISENBERG: Well it was because they are the most delightful words finally brought together - mucus and vomit, oh phlegm. What else, urine? Fantastic.

HINES: Right.


HINES: Question, answer, problem, solution. Anagha.

APTE: Answer, W.

HINES: Wow, faster and faster.


HINES: Better watch out, Josh, she's having a "Jeopardy!" flashback.


HINES: Make up for last time. Ornaments, mistletoe, stocking.

APTE: Oh sorry.

HINES: You get - go ahead, why bother finishing your...?


HINES: There's no point, why did...?

APTE: Mistletoe, T.

HINES: That's right.


HINES: Suspenders, cravat, scarf, handkerchief.

APTE: Handkerchief, D.

HINES: Wow, yeah.


JONATHAN COULTON: Josh, you're going to have to start playing that trumpet pretty soon.



HINES: Herring, salmon, anchovy, halibut. Josh.

SHERMAN: Salmon, L.



HINES: L is right. Yeah. With a vengeance...


HINES: ...with a vengeance.

EISENBERG: Silent, but deadly is Josh.

HINES: Yes. You are the silent consonant in this round, Josh.


HINES: Striking when no one suspects it. Yeah, Anagha, you are our winner there.


EISENBERG: Anagha will be moving on. One more hand for Josh, everybody.



COULTON: (Singing) Took the freeway out of town, found a place to settle down. Got a driveway and a swingset and a dog. You got your very own bathroom, I got my very own workshop in the basement. We sit around staring at the wall-to-wall. Take field trips to our favorite mall. Waiting for the day when all the kids grow up and leave us here.

(Singing) If you need me I'll be downstairs with the shop vac. You can call, but I probably won't hear you because it's loud with the shop vac on. But you'll be OK, 'cause you'll be upstairs with the TV. You can cry and I probably won't hear you because it's loud with the shop vac on.


EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from