’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....
Maybe it’s a sign of getting past it, but I notice more and more the way the language is changing. Or getting sloppier, if you prefer it. Young women, wonderful as they may be (are?) are (may be?) among the worst offenders. They introduced the strangled vocal cord effect in general conversation, which may or may not have been an attempt to sound more sexy. If it was, it didn’t work for me. What about that one on the Archers, married to the blacksmith although she’s dead posh? If I was mad enough to believe the Archers was real, I’d be tempted to send her some lozenges to save her throat.

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.



Susan Price said…
I'm glad someone else shares my opinion of the Gove-Vine coupling. Urgh.

A suitable post for Boris? Worm-food on my compost heap?
Bill Kirton said…
Congratulations, Needle, on writing a blog that, despite reminding me of many of the things that trigger my apoplexy, still managed to trigger many laughs too. As you highlighted each solecism*, I instinctively reached for my medication but felt simultaneously grateful that I'm not the only one who's infuriated by these abominations. (I should add also that, having been a French lecturer, I am doubly exposed. For example, them on the telly and radio who should know better call Degas 'Daygah'. THERE'S NO ACCENT, PEOPLE. IT'S DUG-AH.)
And, while I'm here, may I also congratulate you on Portsmouth stealing the title of League Two Champions from Plymouth Argyle on the very last day.

*solecism = one of those thingummies... you know, the sort that... Oh forget it.
julia jones said…
Would Mrs Needle possibly be any relation to Baxter Ferret['s Ma? Hope all rolling pins, ladles, wooden spoons were safely out of reach before anyone scattered "like" through their sentences or added a rising inflection to each full stop. ?
Wendy H. Jones said…
Brilliantly put, and funny as heck. This has made my day
glitter noir said…
Something wonderful's going on, Jan. Your blogs are getting wickeder and funnier each month. Don't stop now!

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