Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Return of the Intrusive 'h'

It used to be common for people to preface with an additional 'h' some words that begin with a vowel. Dropping an 'h' was considered a sign of incomplete literacy, so people anxious to keep up appearances often added an extra 'h' here and there just be on the safe side.

I remember quiet amusement at school when our Latin teacher once referred to 'Annibal crossing the Halps'

For several decades the intrusive 'h' was rare. The only example I noticed was when a friend called his dog 'Aristotle'. When that was abbreviated to 'Ari' it soon changed to 'Hari', but that was not a typical case because of the understandable confusion with 'Harry'.

Just recently I've detected a minor revival of the intrusive 'h' in the name of the letter itself. In a television advertisement 'aitch' has been mispronounced as 'haitch'.

Is Annibal about to cross the Halps again?

1 comment :

Lucy R. Fisher said...

Oh, Richard! People have been complaining about "haitch" for the past 30 years! And if you want to make a case for the "return of the intrusive H", you need more than one example. You need at least 20.