A word that manifests a gap between classical Latin and modern English pronunciation. When it was at home, the vowels were i as in machine, a as in father, and u as in flute. And so it came into English. Then the great vowel shift happened, changing long vowels into diphthongs, and the short vowel was reduced further and the h came to be pronounced. Now the word sounds like it was invented to be squawked by nasal northeastern Americans (perhaps from Hyannis? more likely Avon Lake, Ohio). It starts with a greeting or an altitude, then there is a quantity or a meal, and finally we have us, which is us or just a Latin suffix such as you’ll see on onus or dorcus or diabetes mellitus. Nothing in the sound or spelling displays a lacuna as such, unless it be the gap in voicing heard with the h, which also shows up on fellow-travelling words: hernia, holiday, hole.
Be a patron!Support Sesquiotica and get extra premium content and goodies. Starts as low as $1 a month! Find out more and subscribe on Patreon.com
I am for hireI earn my living as an independent editor, writer, and educator. Find out more and contact me at jamesharbeck.com.
Buy the T-shirt (or coffee mug or hip flask)
Wear it proudly:
I operate on a NEED-TO-KNOW basis. I need to know EVERYTHING.
Buy it at cafepress.ca/sesquiphernalia
12 Gifts for Writers ebook – free download
Buy my books
Buy my books on Lulu.com:
- Confessions of a Word Lush (paperback)
- Confessions of a Word Lush (ebook)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (paperback)
- Songs of Love and Grammar (ebook)
- 12 Gifts for Writers (print edition)
You can also get them on Amazon.com. Please note that I make less than half as much per book if you buy them there, however.
Word Tasting Notes Google groupGet just the word tasting notes daily by email – join the Google Word Tasting Notes group.
- Pronunciation tip: waistcoat, boatswain, gunwale, victuals, forecastle, blackguard, topgallant sail
- 365 words for drunk
- turn the other cheek
- confident in or about?
- Are you one of the only people bothered by this?
- To be, or not to be, that is the question
- An article title, "An article title 'An article title needs commas' needs commas," needs commas
- Coffice Space
- from the bookshelf
- language and linguistics
- new old words
- Poetry Minute and a Half
- pronunciation tips
- sentence tastings
- The Week
- Word Country
- word pictures
- word portraits
- word reviews
- word sommelier
- word tasting notes