Dropping the aitch from "human"

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Tue Dec 19 02:23:26 UTC 2006

Laurence Horn wrote:
> At 6:38 PM -0600 12/18/06, Gordon, Matthew J. wrote:
>> I think you need to differentiate h-dropping in 'human, humor,
>> humid' etc. from the others. In these cases you have consonant
>> cluster simplification /hj/ > /j/ which continues a long tradition
>> in the history of English. This flavor of h-dropping is associated
>> with NY/NJ but I can't find a citation for that. I checked Wells and
>> found no mention of it. I'm 99% sure that it's not mentioned in
>> Labov's Phonological Atlas.
> Good point.  I suspect I've heard a bunch of instances of h-dropping
> in such proper names as "Houston" and "Hugh" without even noticing
> it.  (The former only for the city, not the street that marks the
> SoHo boundary--if someone pronounced the street name as "OW-ston",
> now *that* I'd have noticed.)
> It seems to me I do in fact dimly recall cases of communication
> breakdown over references to "Hugh" vs. "you".  Now of course we know
> that it's the latter, not the former, who has been selected as Time's

When I was an undergraduate at Cornell, in the early 70s, many of my
friends were from NYC. But one member of our group was from upstate,
near West Point. His name was Hugh. I don't recall any actual
communication breakdowns, but Hugh was most indignant at being addressed
as "you".

Alice Faber                                     faber at haskins.yale.edu
Haskins Laboratories                          tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                             fax (203) 865-8963

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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