It's kind of a blog if you don't think about it too hard

feed Atom Feed



Valid HTML 4.01 Strict [Valid Atom 1.0]

The Most Flexible Consonants

December 2, 2012

As you may or may not know, my initials are BAG. My parents insist that this was not intentional, but I know better. As I was contemplating initials that are also English words, I realized that, if I replaced my middle initial with any other vowel, its status as an English word would remain unchanged: BAG, BEG, BIG, BOG, BUG.

Well, that's cool, I said to myself. But just how lucky am I? That is, out of the 21² = 441 distinct consonant pairs, how many will form a valid English word when each of the five vowels is placed between them? We will consider the letter Y to always be a consonant.

To answer my question, I wrote a small PowerShell program to check each possible Consonant-Vowel-Consonant word using the Microsoft Word 2007 spellchecker:

$word = New-Object -COM Word.Application
$c = ('bcdfghjklmnpqrstvwxyz' -split '')[1..21]
$v = ('aeiou' -split '')[1..5]
foreach($l1 in $c) {
	:set foreach($l3 in $c) {
		foreach($l2 in $v) {
			if(!$word.CheckSpelling("$l1$l2$l3")) {
				continue set
		"$l1 $l3"

And the results:

b g (bag, beg, big, bog, bug)
d g (dag, deg, dig, dog, dug)
h t (hat, het, hit, hot, hut)
m d (mad, med, mid, mod, mud)
p p (pap, pep, pip, pop, pup)
p t (pat, pet, pit, pot, put)
s p (sap, sep, sip, sop, sup)

Only 7 consonant pairs, or 1.6% of all consonant pairs, have the every-vowel-makes-a-word property according to Word. Even 7 is generous, as there are a few words that it claims are valid that I don't agree with.


Add comment

Email (optional):
Human?What is the fourth word of the above blog post?