’Oo’s nicked me haitch? by Jan Needle
I remember sitting in a little pub in Havant once, about twenty years ago, when me mother went off on one because she’d heard a well known person on the telly refer to the letter aitch as haitch. I suppose I could date it exactly if I knew when well known persons became celebs, or when what me ma called ‘this ***%**$* abomination’ became current.
As you can see, she was not a woman who took such things lying down (ah, those were the days, she’d say – she were a saucy old trollop, were Mrs Needle.) and apparently this hatred had been building up for some time.
‘If it was meant to be pronounced haitch it wouldn’t be spelled aitch would it,’ she argued, foaming at the mouth (which may have been the bottled stout, come to think of it.) And when I said I wasn’t bothered one way or the other, she threatened to disown me.
(Come to think of it as well, all I got in her will was the price of a Co-op funeral, so maybe the resentment went deeper than I knew.)
But over the years, as the haitch became ubiquitous, I began to think that she’d been right all along. My grandchildren do it now, and their mother, and their father. In his case it’s not so bad, because his mother's Irish and he claims the Irish have always pronounced it haitch. Funny that I never noticed it in all my many, many years wandering around the place.
|So would I tell you any lies, Guv? So never....
There’s also the word 'book.' Now, we all love books on this blog, don’t we? It’s what we do. But young ladies on Radio Four (which is the only channel I listen to) stopped calling them books a good five years ago, and it’s getting epidemic.
Berk, it is now. Woss that all about, I arsks meself. How, why, should a book now be a berk? If you want to shout “You berk” through your car window in a spot of minor road rage, it doesn’t get you very far if you call the demented moron a book, does it?
There’s possibly (possibly? Hah!) a more serious thing going on with language though, isn’t there? (Innit?) Mr Chump became the President of the Land of the Free by, among other things, inventing the concept of Fake Noos. All you have to do, he discovered (or was told by one of his guardians of the integrity of the greatest country in the world) is tell it like it isn’t. Or, to put it in old-fashioned, lie.
So lying has been a political technique for years and years and years. (Notice how I slipped the word So in to start that sentence? Where did that come from, I wonder.) But Mr Rump, without apparently even having to try, took it to a new, amazing level.
Except it didn’t amaze people, of course. Well it amazed a fair number, but not enough to lose him his erection (Whoops – false news; I mean election, obs.) (Obs! Oh bloody hell, Needle!)
Maybe it’s a foreigner thing (don’t trust these Continentals, in particular) but one sadly doubts it. Pump’s half Scottish and half German, Lynton Crosbie’s an Australian, fair dinkum, as is the sainted Roop, of course (although he used to have a British passport until he thought an American one would make him more money, didn’t he?) but some of our own spinmeisters are pretty British, as are our media moguls and newspaper owners, naturally, except most of them are not.
And on this side of the pond, we’ve now got an election looming, conveniently scrapping the 5-year term rule before it’s been unpacked. To sweep to power, one imagines, such humble seekers after truth as Saint Tereesa (there will not be an election: watch my lips!), Big Bad Doris and his magic bus (where’s the money for the NHS, Boris; we’re still waiting.) and Lickle Govey, who is almost as unspeakable as his wife.
But fortunately, I’m making this all up, I’m a writer, I wouldn’t know the truth if it bit me on the bum. We’ll wake up soon and we’ll still be in the EU, Mr Donald will have been impeached, and Boris will have been promoted to a job to suit his talents. Suggestions on a postcard, please.
So there you are.
Good lord, a reasonable use of the word so, how did that happen?
President Donald Trump came up with the phrase “prime the pump” to describe government stimulus of the economy, he claimed to The Economist in an interview published on Thursday.
Merriam-Webster, tireless defender of words, had a quick and decisive response on Twitter: Nope.
In a frostily polite thread, the dictionary’s social account went through the phrase’s etymology, dating the term to the late 18th century and the economic use of it to the 1930s.