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  • Stan: Re your point in the third paragraph. In words like damn, the final ‘n’ is of course not always silent – damnation, hymnal, autumnal etc. Whereas the final ‘b’ tends to remain silent, e.g in ‘lambing’, ‘dumbing-down’. But then there’s ‘dumbo’ – which Macmillan defines as ‘a stupid person’ (there’s a need for some pragmatic information here…)

  • Marc: Very good! And letters lost from days of old / Make room for more in sixty point bold.

    Gill: That’s very true. I skated over that point a bit, and am glad to have it clarified in the comments.

  • I believe that the word fan is short for fanatic. I was amused to see the fans of the Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt calling themselves the “Fanatics”, probably unaware that they’d reverted to the earlier form of the word.

  • The b in climb, comb, dumb, lamb, tomb, jamb, womb is indeed apocope, but the final bs in crumb, numb, thumb have never been pronounced; they were added by analogy. Limb ‘arm, leg’ got its b by analogy with the less common limb ‘edge’.

  • Gerry: Interesting; I didn’t know Lleyton Hewitt’s fans called themselves fanatics. I imagine that use of the word makes it less pejorative for some people. The connection with fan is more explicit in Tony Scott’s film The Fan, in which Robert de Niro plays a fanatical fan of a baseball team.

    John: Thanks for clarifying the status of other members of the –mb set. I wasn’t aware so many had gained the ‘b’ through analogy.