I'm gnu to this...
The reason behind this post: I woke up one morning and found myself saying "gnu" repeatedly, first with the 'g' and then without. This I did for a long time. I've known myself long enough to not question why...so I haven't. Maybe it's because my earlier curiosity with 'how now brown cow' was over-satiated. Who knows.
I couldn't decide whether I liked the word or not. This silent consonant business has always been a little tricky. Things like 'should', 'could' and 'would' have been happily internalised. As have 'pneumonia', 'knee', 'knit', 'knot', 'knight', 'knife', 'knob', 'know', 'knock' and even 'knickers'. But not 'gnu'. Led me to the conclusion that I had a problem with silent G's (considering silent L's, K's and P's were all fine). So I put it to a test. Sure enough, there was 'gnat', 'gnome', 'gnaw', 'gnarl' and 'gnash' (can't seem to think of more) and all categorised as problematic. A winning theory. Come to think of it, if they were all spelt with a silent K, none of this would be happening. I would've woken up one morning and brushed my teeth and everyone would have gone on to lead happy lives.
Anyway, the bug was in place. I needed to know someone else's view on the topic. Serendipitously, a close friend of mine – Aditi Halbe (photo supplied herewith for your reference) happened to be online. As a brief introduction, I can tell you she has immense affection for most things–from papayas to puppies, and a sizable opinion on why she does, if prodded. Grabbing the opportunity, I asked her what her views were on gnus, gnats and gnomes. She did not respond for three days. A few days later I dropped her a threatening line stating this was serious and got a prompt reply. Needless to say she is one of the few who cares for my mental health.
This is what she had to say:
"I was a little flummoxed.... gnats, gnomes, these words make sense in my brain. I can pronounce them, speak them and see them. The Gnus stumped me. There was a vague recollection of thinking and saying it, but was struggling with the seeing part. Wikipedia to the rescue. And it tells me of gnus (pronounced with the g) in the guise of some operating system (computer jargon). Very confused. This word had no business being in my brain, forget jostling it. "Gnus is a message reader running under GNU Emacs and XEmacs." Then I saw the bit that basically said for gnus animal click here! Phew! I'm glad I am not carrying any operating system information in my head. Now to digest it. I like the idea. But you might want to consider the operating system instead of the wildebeest. Personally I prefer the latter. They are warmer and fuzzier and wear an expression. And they snort."
I decided. I liked the word.