Please consider this list, copied from Benjamin K. Shisler's Dictionary of Phonesthemes:
• /sp/ (1/5) Spit, Spew, Reject: spew, spit, spittle (saliva), spat, spurn (to reject with disdain; refuse contemptuously; scorn; the act of spurning; a kick), spout, spurt, spirt, (issue in a jet, squirt), spatter, spattle, spirtle, sputter (to spit or squirt from the mouth with explosive sounds), spawl (spit coursely), spurtle (burst out, squirt), spat (start up sharply), sput, spung, spong, spume, sputum, spill, sparge (to make moist by sprinkling "the gentle rain ~ed the parched fields"),
It's sad, no? Consider the poor, innocent sound /sp/. What does it mean? Nothing by itself. How can /sp/ be bad in itself? And yet look at the company it keeps. All those nasty words centered round the concept of spitting, spewing or rejecting--a sort of out-from-the-inside motion cluster. It forms such icky words, it must be icky.
Mind you, I was named Strother Purdy. SP are my initials. So the /sp/ sound is my native turf and my sense of self worth rises and falls with it. Let's quickly move to the next list and look for some better members of my sound family. they must exist:
• /sp/ (2/5) Speaking: speak, speech, spiel, sputter, spill the beans
Again, we find in speech that sense of out-from-the-inside motion. Words come from inside people and are sent into the world. I don't think of speech as nasty, so perhaps /sp/ isn't a nasty, vomit-tinged concept altogether. However, sputtering isn't the most elegant form of speech so there's little solace here.
The third list is a set of nails in the sound's coffin:
• /sp/ (3/5) Contempt, Blemish: spam, spud, sped, spic (slur for Spanish American), spazz, spoof, special, spy, spendthrift, spoffish (fussy, bustling), spoffskins (a woman with a dubious sexual history who shacks up with a man and poses as his wife), spotty, spoiled, spent, specious, spurious, spinster (bachelorette), spintry (male whore), spitball, sparse, spare, spot, spall (a small fragment or chip especially of stone; to break off chips, scales, or slabs; exfoliate; to undergo spallation), spatchcock (a bird split and grilled immediately after being killed; to prepare a bird like this; to interpolate a phrase; to add by interpolation; a hastily constructed argument), speck, speckled, spackle (powder mixed with water to form a paste and used as a filler for cracks in a surface before painting, to apply spackle),
What a motley crew of words your mother never wants you to speak.
The one word that sticks out is "special." Then again, when I was growing up, "special" had a positive connotation and meant something a cut above. Now, if you're labeled "special" in public school, it means something else. So in fact the word doesn't stick out that much after all.
The fourth grouping:
• /sp/ (4/5) Spikiness: spine, spike, spire, spur (a pointed device secured in a rider's heel and used to urge the horse; recognition and reward for achievement; a goad to action; stimulus; something projecting like or suggesting a spur; a projecting root or branch of a tree; a stiff sharp spine (as on the wings or legs of a bird or insect); one on a cock's leg; a gaff for a gamecock; a hollow projecting appendage of a corolla or calyx (as in larkspur or columbine); climbing iron; a ridge or lesser elevation that extends laterally from a mountain or mountain range; a hasty impulse; to urge on with as if with spurs; to incite to action or accelerated growth or development; stimulate; to put spurs on), spear,
Well, sharp, pointy instruments that impale things aren't too bad. Makes me feel strong, masculine, but somewhat red in the face.
The last list:
• /sp/ (5/5) Energy, Life, Jet Movement: spang (spring, leap; to a complete degree; in an exact or direct manner; squarely), spank, spunk (spark; spririted courage; punk), spong (comic sound effect), speed, spice, spirit, spite (petty ill will or hatred with the disposition to irritate, annoy, or thwart; malice; to treat maliciously; annoy; offend), spark, sparkle, spangle (a small plate of shining metal or plastic used in ornamentation esp on clothing; small glittering object or particle; to glitter as if covered by spangles; sparkle), spawn, spore, sperm, spasm (a sudden, violent, involuntary contraction of a muscle or a group of muscles, attended by pain and interference with function, producing involuntary movement and distortion; a sudden but transitory constriction of a passage, canal or orifice), spartle (flounder, kick, or flail about),
SP, the spartling and spicy spirit, spoffily spanked the spunk out of the, oh, well, you get the idea. The possibilities of an onomatopoeic quasi-autobiographical novel range before my eyes... I will study sound symbolism to find just the right names for all the characters. Marvelous Mary and Fantastic Fred go up against Glowering Glover and Spartling Spurdy? To be honest, I would have to reconcile with the gloomy grouping of sounds around my initials, and like Iago turn villain because God made me so. Hmm, must go and ponder this.