We have (unfortunately) an almost inexhaustible supply of silent letters in English.
Today's example is the old-fashioned word "ptomaine". People used to refer to food poisoning as "ptomaine poisoning. The word is pronounced toe main (but keep reading for a surprise about that).
Cadaverine.Any of a group of amines [organic compounds derived from ammonia] (e.g. cadaverine, putrescine, neurine) of unpleasant taste and odour, formed in putrefying animal and vegetable matter and formerly thought to cause food poisoning
Never say that Wordlady fails to introduce you to lovely words. Anyway, it has been determined that these charmingly named substances are not the actual cause of food poisoning; they just coexist with the toxic bacteria that are. The well-known food poisoning bacteria are Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism, and salmonella.
Botulism, though no fun at all, does at least have an entertaining etymology:
Late 19th century from German Botulismus, originally ‘sausage poisoning’, from Latin botulus ‘sausage’, because first identified in badly preserved sausages.Death by sausage, as it were. And how appropriate that it was Germans who first named it.
"Ptomaine" came into English in the 19th century from the French ptomaïne, from Italian ptomaina, formed irregularly from Greek ptōma ‘corpse’. Goodness this post is getting morbid.
As to the pronunciation, the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, in 1909, gave two possibilities:
toe may ine
ptoe may ine
Yes, with a pronounced p. This pronunciation was doomed to failure because English speakers are just not good at initial pt-.
The dictionary even got quite sniffy about the pronunciation that has since become standard:
‘it is to be regretted that the full correction to ptomatine was not made at its reception into English, which would also have prevented the rise of the illiterate pronunciation toe MAIN, like domain’.You know, it's unwise to make judgemental remarks about pronunciations you consider "illiterate", because, as we have seen before with words like "balcony" and "camellia", in a hundred years you'll just look ridiculous.
Well, I'm sorry to inflict a post about food poisoning on you in these times, but at least I am pretty sure you're unlikely to get botulism or salmonella from your chocolate bunny.
Do you use the term "ptomaine poisoning", or have you done so in the past?