Character(s): Mary, Sherlock
Summary: Sherlock is book-smart.
Author's Notes: Sherlock-verse. Fill for the July 4 writing poem prompt by Walt Whitman:
Words! book-words! what are you?
Words no more, for hearken and see,
My song is there in the open air—and I must sing,
With the banner and pennant a-flapping.
“No,” says Mary, patiently. “You can’t just let me read it. You need to say it out loud.”
Sherlock sighs. “If you’re going to insist on approving my speech ahead of time, I need to leave something to surprise you at your wedding.”
“Your vocabulary is huge, but it’s mostly book-words. How many have you ever heard spoken aloud?”
“I flatter myself I’ve unraveled the mysteries of English orthography by now.”
“Really? How many syllables in this word?” She holds out a card.
“Three, of course. Need I summarize the Great Vowel Shift and the ensuing diphthongization of open syllables? English spelling is mostly a recapitulation of the sound changes in the language that occurred after the writing system developed. The phonemic inventory changed, but the spelling remained frozen, so even in the absence of spoken exposure to a word, a passing acquaintance with historical phonology will allow one to deduce its pronunciation from its written—it is three, right?”
“Just start reading your speech. I’m sure you will succeed in surprising me in some other way when the time comes.”
Sherlock pauses, frowning at the index card on which is written epitome.