How to pronounce the C

Leo A. Martin
Mon, 29 Mar 2004 07:50:43 PST
The Greek alphabet has no letter C. The Greeks used the kappa, from 
which comes our K, and that is a clue - any Greek word spelled with a C 
should be pronounced with a K. Greek also has a letter called chi, from 
which comes the X. It was pronounced like the combination ch in German. 
There is no English equivalent. It is often transliterated as CH. For 
example, Chasmanthe and Chlorophytum.

In passing, Greek also lacks the H letter. The H sound is only heard at 
the start of a word, and is indicated by an inverted comma placed before 
the letter and at the top of the letter. Thus, the epic poet Homer's 
name in Greek looks something like 'Omer.

Latin originated with a C. The K was considered a foreign import from 
the Greeks and was added later. In Latin the C is always pronounced with 
a K sound. Many people nowadays pronounce ancient Latin like modern 
Italian, and this is also the pronounciation you would hear at a Latin 
Mass in the Roman Catholic church. But the Latin scholars at 
universities insist the C should always be pronounced like a K.

Thus, Acis = akis
Cephalophyllum = kephalophyllum

But, if you pronounce genera according to the ancient Greek and Latin, 
anybody in the plant world will look at you in puzzlement.

Leo A. Martin
Phoenix, Arizona, USA

Like cactus and succulents?
Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society

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