For reasons I won't bother you with, I was thinking about the syllable pib yesterday.

As syllables go, it's not all that unusual: consonant-vowel-consonant, easy to pronounce, not an actual word—but there's no reason on earth why it couldn't be.

Then I tried to think of words which begin with the syllable pib. I eventually came up with pibald.

I found pibald a totally unsatisfactory answer to my self-imposed challenge to find a word beginning pib_ for two reasons: (1) piebald is how I (and, I hope, most other people) would normally spell the word, and, more importantly, (2) the letters P, I, B are not pronounced as a single syllable: it's pi-bald. Like I said, totally unsatisfactory.

So I racked my brains for a while, trying to come up with another word which begins pib_. I failed.

So I've just looked in my Compact Oxford English Dictionary (the full-hit dictionary printed so small that it comes with a magnifying glass to help you read it), and here are the pib_ words listed in it:

  • pibald
    already got that one!
  • pibil/pibble/pible
    an obsolete spelling of pebble
  • pibble-pabble
    an alteration of bibble-babble (obviously)
  • pibcorn
    an obsolete word for a form of hornpipe formerly used in Wales
  • pibling
    some famous writer's misspelling of pipling (the dolt!)
  • piblokto
    a form of hysterical illness in Eskimo dogs (no, really!)
  • pibroach/pibrach
    variations on a particular musical theme for bagpipes in the Scotch (sic) Highlands

So now I know.

I wonder why so few words begin with pib_.

(Don't get me started on beb_.)

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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