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May 20

Written by: Greg Runyon
5/20/2010 9:56 AM 

I've been thinking about the letter H lately.  It’s an invaluable tool, no doubt, when you want to tell someone 'hello,' or even better, 'shhhh,” but also misunderstood and a little bit annoying at times.  My Uncle Henry, a terrific individual whose name starts with H (obviously), passed away this year.  Most people did not call him Henry, though.  See, his last name was Eichhorn—which as you can see sports the unlikely Double H brand right there in the middle—so most everyone called him Ike.  Thinking of him is what sent me down the path of thinking about the letter H.

 

I'm a bit of an unqualified novice grammarian, and the ways people pronounce H in usage sometimes irk me.  It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me when people say ‘human’ as if it were spelled ‘yuman,’ or ‘huge’ as ‘yuge.’  Give that H its due!  It gets even more tricky when you start adding in the indefinite articles ‘a’ and ‘an.’ 

 

Everyone seems to get that a unit of time is 'an hour,' (silent H) and that you stay in 'a hotel,' (breathy H) but sometimes people want to get haughty (so they think, but I think it makes them sound ridiculous) and want to combo up 'an historic' without properly swallowing their H.    If you're going to say that, it had better come out sounding more like 'an istoric,' or to my mind you're just doing it wrong.  Why not just keep the breathy H and go with 'a historic' anyway?  Most people wouldn't say 'Greg has an history of ulcerative colitis' (I don't really); you'd say 'a history.'  So why this 'an historic' rubbish?  Just say it was 'a historic victory' and be done with it.

 

No one would say they fell into 'an hole.'  'Hole,' must always be paired with 'a,' and best off with a long 'a.'  Got it, 'a hole?'  I would say I didn't properly appreciate the children's ditty

 

There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,

There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole.

Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry, fix it.

 

until I was an adult, and could with grown-up knowledge inspired gusto hammer home the 'a hole' line with a long 'a'.  To this day I can get myself giggling by singing that.  Juvenile, I am not at all ashamed to admit.

 

I can't be sure why Henry (the henpecked husband character in this song) thinks it necessary to call Liza such a name while lamenting the state of his bucket, though I suppose it's just a response to her constant nagging for him to fix said bucket.  You can't really blame her for the nagging though, as Henry seems terrifically daft, needing constant instruction on the next step in the repair process.  To wit:

 

With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza?

With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, with what?

With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

With a straw, dear Henry, dear Henry, a straw.

The straw is too long, dear Liza, dear Liza,

The straw is too long, dear Liza, too long,

Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

Then cut it, dear Henry, dear Henry, cut it.

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, dear Liza?

With what shall I cut it, dear Liza, with what?

With an axe, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

With an axe, dear Henry, dear Henry, an axe.

The axe is too dull, dear Liza, dear Liza,

The axe is too dull, dear Liza, too dull.

Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

Then sharpen it, dear Henry, dear Henry, whet it.

With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, dear Liza?

With what shall I sharpen it, dear Liza, with what?

With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

With a stone, dear Henry, dear Henry, a stone.

The stone is too dry, dear Liza, dear Liza,

The stone is too dry, dear Liza, too dry.

Then moisten it, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

Then moisten it, dear Henry, dear Henry, moisten it.

With what shall I moisten, dear Liza, dear Liza?

With what shall I moisten, dear Liza, with what?

Try water, dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

Try water, dear Henry, dear Henry, try water.

From where shall I get it, dear Liza, dear Liza?

From where shall I get it, dear Liza, from where?

From the well, dear Henry,dear Henry, dear Henry,

From the well, dear Henry, dear Henry, the well.

In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, dear Liza?

In what shall I fetch it, dear Liza, in what?

In a bucket dear Henry, dear Henry, dear Henry,

In a bucket dear Henry, dear Henry, in a bucket.

There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,

There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole...

 

These people are either made for each other, or on a collision course for acrimonious divorce proceedings.  If the latter is true, one can only hope that they realize during the property division phase that one of them will be stuck with the bucket, and that either would be unable to cope with that problem without the other and patch things up.

 

I have to say, when it popped into my head to write about the letter H I didn’t think I could actually make a legitimate-length entry about it, but it seems I have.  So I’ll just close with ‘hallelujah!’

 

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