Good Enough for Folk Etymology—Part XIII—A. Pocryphal & Verity du Bius SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents Amateur Hour at the Minas Morgul All-Ages Dance Club—Artemus Zebulon Pratt

Fables of Linguistics
The Tale of the Dysfunctional ⟨h⟩ Family

The Tale Teller of Tollerton Town

There are families and, well, as you know, there are, so to speak (and not to put too fine a point on it), families. We’ve all had one (or more) and have been blessed or scarred (probably a tantalising mixture of both) by it (or them). But, while we are all, if you’ll pardon the etymo-pun familiar with our own families, are we as linguists as familiar as we should be with the orthographic families of the language we speak and study? I’m not a betting man, but I’ll wager not in any case. So, settle back and enjoy the Tale of the Dysfunctional ⟨h⟩ Family.

Once upon a time in Lexeme Land when the Morpholo-Moon was yet purple and young and the Syntax-Sun shone still dimly yet dancingly in the Semanti-Sky, there lived a large family of ⟨h⟩-s. Large were they; and! they were large. Not only in number but in egoand with ego, as Freud has rightly shown us, comes insecurity, arrogance, Oedipal tendencies, fragility, disharmony, despair and disinheritance. In short, the ⟨h⟩ family did not get on.

But, as has been told, this was a time when the world was young. The graphs of Lexeme Land had not yet formed into tribes, agriculture was many centuries away and the cities that would one day be built by the great Monarchs of the Abstract Conceptual Noun Class or the Emperors of Ellipsis were still but stone and sand. So the ⟨h⟩ family went, as did all the graphs of that time, hither and thither, listing as they wished, picking cranberries from the morphtrees and shooting wugs with bows and movement arrows.

But, as we know, they did not get on!

Time came, as time doesafter times and in good timeand time timed its time away leaving the timelessness that time unties from itself as it dies retimed in the untimeliness of time’s Time ... and! ... they still did not get on. There was back-biting and face-clawing, ear-pinching and bottom-slapping, gargling and gurgling, hollering, hating and hurting.

So a great council of the ⟨h⟩ family was called with the biggest ⟨H⟩-s sat upon the subscript h⟩-s, the italics h⟩-s leaning against the bold h⟩-s and the underline h⟩-s on the line. Talk was talked, chat was chatted and decisions were eventually decided: it was time for the ⟨h⟩ family to go their separate ways. There was great weeping at this decision for the ⟨h⟩-s felt a deep graphic bond but they knew as you know that they did notand would notget on.

So off they went and looked among the other graphic families for new friends with whom they could bond. Yet little did they know that this would be a great moment in Lexeme Land: the diaspora of the ⟨h⟩ family in time gave rise to many great glossaries some of which we shall now recount.

A great many ⟨h⟩-s were quick to find friends. Some for example, married into the ⟨t⟩ family and gave rise to three thoroughly thunderous lines of descendants, thick with Arthurian characters for Lexeme Lands gives thanks even to this day. But let us not forget that a line of the ⟨t⟩~⟨h⟩ bond split off; they voiced themselves differently in this, that and the other way, developed a highly functional culture and became indispensable over time: few sentences could be made without them.

Other ⟨h⟩-s went south to the archipelagos in the Middle Ocean and there they phound phriends in the ⟨p⟩ phamily. It was phenomenal, phrankly, Pharaonic, one might say, like photons shooting phrom a phantastical phar-ophph star.

Some of the quieter ⟨h⟩-s moved in with the ⟨s⟩-s. They lived a quiet life where the only thing that was ever really whispered was ‘shhhhhhhh’. Other ⟨h⟩-s were quite loud. They had liked the gargling and the gurgling so they found the ⟨g⟩ family and shacked up with them. This of course was tough at first but although it was hard initially, with so much shouting, everyone learned to calm down and just speak in [fffffff]-s ... or even say nothing at all. Like the ⟨h⟩~⟨t⟩ intermarriage, the ⟨h⟩~⟨g⟩ union also saw the splitting off of a somewhat ghostly if not ghoulish faction who were aghast at how ⟨h⟩ and ⟨g⟩ made such a vulgar velar sound together. This faction went and lived in ghylls or ghettoes and lived simply on ghee. Eventually, the ⟨g⟩-s came to dominate the ⟨h⟩-s in this group and it almost came to be that ⟨h⟩-s were hardly there at all.

Some ⟨h⟩-s were quite questioning in their attitude and so lived at ease with the wondering ⟨w⟩-s of Wherever. They just asked when, and where, who, whence, whither and why? They also asked how; in fact they asked that so much that the ⟨w⟩-s left how to the ⟨h⟩-sbut they took what for their own!

Then there were those ⟨h⟩-s were very insecure once the whole ⟨h⟩ family had split up. They went and found some powerful vowels and, quite frankly, just clung on silently at one end. With every hour that passed, they dishonoured their ancestors and showed themselves unrightful heirs to the ⟨h⟩ legacy by refusing to speak in any way. Vehicles of vehemenceor any strong emotionthey were not.

The ⟨h⟩-s that joined up with the ⟨r⟩ family became the most eclectic of all. Some became farmers growing rhubarb by the ton; others hunted great beasts: lions, tigers and rhinoceros; still others studied maths, coming to understand all sorts rhomboids; while others took to poetry writing great epics with complex rhymes and contrapuntal rhythms. They built a great academy near Rhodes and simply sat and thought rhapsodic thoughts.

But last of all of course is that strand of the ⟨h⟩ family that made no alliances and bred no new bonds. They were the lion’s share of the original family and the great Meeting had taught them a lesson. So they became happy and healthy and hungered for a holistic healing between the remaining ⟨h⟩-s. They harnessed the power of hope and they achieved their hambition, even learning to tolerate differences among them, abandoning hubris and seeing the humanity in the various hues of ⟨h⟩-ness.

So, as with all things, the clock moves round to midday again; the tide goes out and then returns upon its own watery power; the spiral arms of the greatest galaxies rotate under the Eye of Cosmic Forces of Communication; and the antelope grazes by the stream where its forgotten forefathers also grazed. And, the ⟨h⟩-s that once were so rich in animosity were now dispersed among the other families but were at peace. And in time, their descendants numbered thousands, more even the longest lists of lexemes in the lengthiest lexicons of Lexeme Land. And all was, as they say, good.

Good Enough for Folk EtymologyPart XIIIA. Pocryphal & Verity du Bius
Amateur Hour at the Minas Morgul All-Ages Dance ClubArtemus Zebulon Pratt
SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 4 Contents