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What bothers me the most is my Philosophy Professor here at school. He's got a habit of following the hard and fast guidelines of the English language rather than the rules that are defined by sound and experience.

Okay, you've got a word, universe, and you want to talk about a singular universe.

What you learned in kindergarten would tell you that, since it starts with a vowel, you'd say an universe. I know for a fact that this is wrong though. Say it out loud.

An universe.

A universe.

The problem arises from the muddling of vowels and consonants and their jobs. Vowels aren't supposed to make consonant sounds, which is why the rule you (at least I, in any case) learned in kindergarten was made, but they do sometimes. A revision would (should) be, use an before a word that starts with a vowel sound.

Universe, eulogy, eukaryote, union, and urine all start with vowels, however, they all have the same introductory |j| sound, according to the international phonetic alphabet. The |j| is a semi-vowel (which is a consonant sound) that sounds like 'yuh,' well, not like yuh, but it's the sound that a y in front of a letter usually makes. Although 'eu' and 'u' sometimes make that consanant sound as well. Anyway, with that in mind, it makes sense that we'd say 'a union' as well as 'a yak.' If we didn't, our spoken language would be suffering at the expense of rules for things on paper.

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