The Crisp, Cerebral C

The mirror cracked from side to side; "The curse is come upon me", cried The Lady of Shallot

The Lady of Shallot Lord Tennyson

It's no coincidence that the value of a diamond is determined by the four Cs -- color, carat, clarity and cut -- for the letter C's crisp pronunciation is indelibly associated with all things sharp and unyielding. Having evolved from the Egyptian picture sign of a sharpened hunting stick, its very shape harks back to its boomerang origins. Its sharp edges are depicted in the words cactus, crack, cut, click, concise, carbon, clamor, clash, curse, claw, and club.

These characteristics even manage to describe the sharp intelligence associated with the C in words like clever, civil, careful, capable, cranium, cerebral, and the word capital -- derived from the Latin caput, meaning head.

But when the C's keen intellect is moderated by the gentle letter H, it takes on a distinctly benign tone: Christ, champion, chancellor, chapel, church, cherub, chaperone, charisma, chastity, cherish, chivalry, charming, and chief. When the C is connected to the letter R, it assumes a distinctly creepy tone (crabby, crabby, crappy, cranky, cretin, and crafty), but when linked to the laid-back L, it becomes clear, classical, clean, clever, classy, and clinical.

We see the C’s influence on the traditional meanings of the names Conan, (knowledge bringer), Christopher (of Christ), Clementine (merciful), Cyril (of the Lord) and Clark (of the clergy).