Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Alphabet Snob

I think of myself as open-minded. I know I haven't always been, and I know I still have aspects to work on now. But, if this makes sense, I thought I knew which parts of life I still needed to accept fully. I thought I was pretty much there on getting to know people by their actions alone, as opposed to their friends or their clothes or their make-up.

So I was floored when I discovered that this was not, actually, the case.

It was brought to my attention that I am, in fact, an Alphabet Snob. Hereby coining the phrase, I mean that I am a person who will shudder at what I believe to be a mispronunciation of that fateful 8th letter of the alphabet.

I'll let you count. Got there? Good.

I am a firm believer in the pronunciation 'Aitch'. Don't know when we learn these things; probably it all just depends on who's teaching us the alphabet in Reception class/pre-school. When did I even learn the alphabet??

My reasoning is that you can't just pronounce everything wrong! No one will be able to communicate at all! Spelling is difficult because people don't pronounce things how they are spelt. 'Environment' has an 'n' - say it! 'Pronunciation' - no 'o' in the middle! Then I remembered about the country we live in. Everyone throughout our history has pronounced everything exactly how they wish. Heard of Trottiscliffe? Well it's said, 'Trosley'. That's the best one I know of. I believe we can blame Henry VIII for a great deal of the weirdness. So clearly, we've dealt with it for centuries, I don't need to start worrying about it now.

After a long discussion with the 'Haitch'-sayer resulting, probably, from them helping me to spell something, I embarked on an embarrassingly long internet research session into the correct pronunciation of 'H'. And I mean, serious. I even tried Google Scholar.

However, the internet, for once, seemed oddly tactful on the subject. The most useful site was BBC news, not, as I was half-expecting, reporting a grisly murder resulting from a disagreement involving the Eighth Letter, but their guidelines for their reporters. The BBC leave it up to individual reporters to pronounce the letter as they will, but if really pushed for an answer will recommend 'Aitch', as it does get few complaints. From snotty old ladies, like me, probably. I by no means claimed a victory overall at this.

The internet as a whole informed me that although 'Aitch' is the original pronunciation, 'Haitch' is not incorrect and is viewed as a dialect-type-thing. Obviously, we don't tell people not to say 'wee' instead of small, or 'aye' instead of yes. Aitch or Haitch, it's up to you.

Language is adapting all the time. I'm among the very, very few to still type 'all right' instead of the new, shortened 'alright', and you only have to read one line of Shakesparrow to remember that English does not stagnate. It's unsurprising that I'm just a touch behind the times, though. I hate change. My one Apple product was a gift, and according to, well, everyone, I do not make full use of its capabilities; I cannot work the family television; I call it a 'television'; I've had the same model of phone, which was my first, for 6 years; I acquired a laptop (another gift) on my 18th Birthday; and I have ab.sol.utely no idea how to work tumblr.

BUT. Fairness is one thing I like to stay on top of. If you're new here, read a couple more posts. So, I will no longer wince or shudder or punch you in the face Well, I didn't do a great deal of that before... if you are a 'Haitch' sayer, I promise.

Then we happened to get on the subject of whether it's pronounced 'clerk' as in 'jerk' or 'clerk' as in 'dark'...

Yours, comprehensively,

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