The sound /kr/ is usually spelt cr- in English, and many words containing this combination indicate objects that are bent, or crooked. You may well be reading this while sitting cross-legged, you could be crouching down to get a good look at the screen, or else craning your neck upwards at an angle, like this Whooping Crane (Grus Americana) to the left.
Make sure that you don't get a crick in your neck if you do so!
Words beginning with cr- often indicate how the straight and true can be bent or otherwise disfigured, This can involve minor modification, as with crimping and crinkling, or a more serious mutilation with cracking or crippling.
As well as being bent out of shape, cr- words can also indicate compression. Things get crumpled or crushed to be crammed into nooks and crannies.
First, let's look at some verbs. Match the verbs below with their definitions:
(Hover your mouse over the sentences to reveal the answers, tap on mobile devices).
1. form surface bends or wrinkles
2. disable or disfigure by causing someone to lose the use of limbs
3. bend down close to the ground
4. bend or press into tight regular curls or folds
5. stuff or squeeze tightly into a small space
6. press tightly between two opposing forces in order to break
7. make collapse into creases or wrinkles
8. move slowly and stealthily
9. shrink, bend or cower in fear
10. break with a sharp sound, but without complete separation of parts
11. move slowly on hands and knees or by dragging the body along the ground
12. crush loudly with the teeth.
Now put the same words in the right forms into the sentences below. All of the verbs are regular, with the exception of creep, (creep, crept, crept):
1. Although Stella's baby cannot walk yet, he has already started ___________ around the house.
2. Jack picked up the bill, __________ it into a ball, and then angrily threw it into the bin.
3. The burglar __________ up the stairs, determined not to waken its sleeping occupants.
4. The battery hens were __________ into tiny cages, up to eight birds in each.
5. Delia covered the pie filling with pastry and then __________ the edges so the filling wouldn't leak out.
6. Lieutenant Jackson was __________ by the bomb blast, which blew off both of his legs.
7. Joshua filled his mouth with crackers and then began __________ down on them with relish.
8. The ceilings in the old cottage were very low, so visitors had to __________ down to avoid banging their heads on the door frame.
9. Helen __________ her nose in disgust when John took off his shoes. His socks smelt of old Brie.
10. A stone bounced up off the road surface and __________ the windscreen.
11. The noise of fingers being scraped against a blackboard still made Tom __________.
12. The aluminium cans are taken to the recycling depot in order to be __________ so the metal can be reused.
Shepherd's CrookOne of the clearest images of the consonant cluster /kr/ is of the shepherd's crook. This has also been adopted by the Christian Church as a symbol in line with Jesus Christ as the "Good Shepherd". Bishops and high-ranking members of the Church carry crosiers, intricate crooks as they, like shepherds, "guide their flocks".
On the left is the crosier of the Bishop of Vesoul, (France), from the 18th century. The word "crook" derives from the old Norse word krokr meaning "hook" or "corner".
English keeps this idea too with the phrase "nooks and crannies", referring to remote corners where things can be hidden away. Scandinavian crooks and hooks are krok in Swedish and Norwegian, krog in Danish and krókur in Icelandic, the closest modern language to Old Norse. Crook has also come to mean a swindler, a bent, crooked person, or someone who is not straight and correct.
Crunch has exact cognates in Icelandic and Danish and is krossa in Swedish and kraken in Dutch.
In Romance languages too, the kr- is present for crunching: French has croquer, Spanish has crujir and Romanian has crănţăi.
Slavic languages are represented by krskati in Croatian and крцкати in Serbian, but most seem to prefer either a /xr/ sound for crunching - chrúmať (Slovak), chrupać (Polish) - or a /hr/ cluster - хрустіти (Ukrainian), хрускам (Bulgarian).
The verb crack is also well-represented in Indo-European languages by kr-. There is craquer (French), crăpa (Romanian) and krachen (German) amongst others.
Now have a look at the quiz below, and test your cr- knowledge!
1. What is the process of creating a fabric from thread with a hook called?
2. What cr- is an old and malicious but wise woman, who often appears in fairy tales?
3. That's the way the cookie crumbles is an idiom meaning what?
a) the situation is like that: deal with it
b) everything falls apart
c) this is how you should cook
d) look before you leap
4. What do you get when your muscles contract painfully often after strenuous exercise?
5. What do we call scurrying insects that often hide in nooks and crannies?
6. What is the name for a narrow crack in rock or metal, or on a geological fault?
7. A crevasse (right) is a specific, deep kind of crevice, but where would you find it?
a) on the ocean floor
b) in a glacier or ice
c) in the side of a volcano
d) on a beach
8. What is the name of the long stick with a horizontal support at the top, which is used by lame people or crippled people for support?
9. A creek is a geographical feature. What is it?
a) a narrow bay or inlet
b) a rocky hillside
c) a swamp
d) a canal that links two rivers
10. The word creek appears in a rather rude idiom. Where are you if you are "up shit creek without a paddle"?
a) in a teenage boy's bedroom
b) in a very difficult situation
c) in a sewer
d) in Milton Keynes
11. Which cr- is a line made by pressing or folding cloth or paper?
a) a crick
b) a cranny
c) a crease
d) a crown
12. Someone or something that is aged, weak or damaged is an old _______?
So are you now well-versed in cr-? By hook or by crook, you should learn these words!
Whooping Crane: By Kristen Ortwerth-Jewell from Houston, Texas (Whooping Crane Uploaded by snowmanradio) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Crozier: By Remi Mathis (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Crevasse: By Godot13 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons