How could we forget q? It’s just the way you write the hard ‘k’ sound when it’s before a ‘w’ sound. So here we go for ‘qween,’ ‘qwick’ and ‘conqwest.’ (We haven’t mentioned vowels yet, but it seems clear that after a ‘q,’ a ‘u’ is going to be written ‘w,’ as it’s obviously a consonant there.) The only weirdness here is that to retain the 1–1 correspondence between written and spoken forms, every ‘k’ before a ‘w’ must be written as a ‘q’—else how would you know?

So that gives us ‘awqward,’ ‘baqwards’ and ‘booqworm.’ These are strange combinations that occur at syllable boundaries, but of course, we can’t just arbitrarily say that syllable boundaries have special status—at least not without some hint in the spelling. If it’s a word, it’s a word. End of story. So ruthlessness prevails.

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