hinsertion

On Language Log, Geoff Pullum observes a quibble about h-dropping in ecclesiastical Latin. He follows up with a contrite mea culpa, summarizing the feedback he got to the effect that word-initial [h] is standardly not pronounced in church Latin. There is also evidence that the consonant was an issue in classical Latin.

It brought me back to a story I meant to post in January on a similar point. Sitting in the airport departure lounge in Ottawa, I heard the PA page a passenger. Now, announcements in public buildings in Ottawa (and across Canada) are always bilingual. Moreover, H-deletion (and hypercorrective h-prothesis) is a noted property of Quebec-accented English. I worked one summer in a bilingual groundskeeping outfit, and to this day don’t know if the real name of the trimming tool is edgeclippers or hedgeclippers. (And don’t tell me!)

All I remember from the airport was that the passenger’s first name was Elvira. So the announcer says Air Canada is paging passenger Helvira so-and-so, with a pause to offset Helvira. Then in French, the same announcer says Air Canada [unintelligible to me] passager Elvira so-and-so. To be honest, it could have been that the [h] was in the French segment – but one instance was vowel-initial, the other h-initial. (My intuition was the the speaker was French-dominant).
I found it interesting that the same person would insert that [h] on the name only once in two nearly adjacent opportunities. Luckily, I have no spectrogram of either token to bungle.

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