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Wat te ell?

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When did we, as English speakers, lose all respect for the letter H?

The English language has some of the more Gordian rules, and I understand about the whole H-is-silent-thing in words like herb and…well, herb. But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, among those who report the news in particular, to do away with the poor H altogether. They sound like a bunch of bloody Cockney cab drivers, “Wit a report from te field, it’s Arry Enderson,” or “Beats te ell out of me, Oward, e’s got a ostage and e wants is orse.” I keep expecting them to start calling each other ‘guvna’ and ‘mate.’

The phasing out of the H seems to have been a gradual process. Discovery Channel documentaries began featuring elderly scholars solemnly intoning ‘Neandertal’ instead of ‘Neanderthal.’ The Weather Channel makes mention of ‘urricanes’ and CSPAN reports on ‘istory.’ Now everyday parlance is infected…woman at the grocery store the other day asked me if I knew where the orseradish was. Bloody ell.

I ask you, where will it all end? Is the K next? It seems a fairly extraneous letter…knife and knee and so on. Or what about the Q? Not only is it useless (it’s function could be performed easily by the K or the C) but it’s ugly. It’s a big circle with a little tail…it looks like the product of a drunken sculptor. “Bloody ell, Orace! Ave you been at the ooch again?! You were supposed to make te O, tat’s all! Wat’s tis dangly ting here? Kwick, clean it up before Kwincy sees it!”

I tink we sould all switc to Portuguese.

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  • Actually, “Neandertal” might not be that inaccurate. Neanderthal Man is so named for the Neander Valley in Germany, which in German would be “Neander Tal” (“Thal” being the outmoded spelling for valley in German)…

  • So I should thump all the instructors and science show narrators I’ve ever come into contact with up until then? 🙂

  • I read a short story once – I think it was by L. Sprague de Camp – in which an effort to modernize the language is undertaken. First certain extraneous silent consonants are eliminated, followed by vowel blends. Then similar consonants are combined and so on and so forth, all in the name of efficiency, until the last sentence of the story reads something like:
    Ths df eri s wt k.
    It helps that the author (I’m pretty sure it was de Camp) was a linguist by trade.