Well, I was correct in my prediction that the Ant & Dec appearance would be a blink-and-you-miss-me affair. Although we spent more than an hour giving them spelling and Scrabble tips, my contribution was edited down to "Hi, I'm Lynne" and "Yes, that's a word" (or something like that). I don't have a good history with ITV.

But the show had a wealth of jokes that wouldn't work in AmE, so I amused myself with noticing them--for instance, Dec's double-entendre at the start about about having it off--where "it" could have been his leg, or (BrE) he could have been claiming to have had sex with the "nurses" who accompanied him on stage. Then there was the skit/game called Court in the Act, which works much better as a pun in BrE than it would in AmE.

But the richest bit (from my perspective) was Dec almost losing the spelling bee (forcing the competition into 'sudden death') because he used the AmE spelling of diarrhea. Susie Dent, the dictionary expert (of Countdown fame), merely told him that the 'correct' spelling was diarrhoea, without mentioning the AmE connection. A lost opportunity, I thought. But still, at least it's topical as far as this blog is concerned. Also did you (who watched it) notice that Ant and Dec are both haitch-sayers? Is this a Geordie (Newcastle-dialect) thing, do you think, or Catholic upbringing? (Only Dec went to Catholic school, though, according to this source.)


  1. Diarrh(o)ea: No way! I forgot to watch the show, but I extracted the ODE definitions for someone at ITV. I kept telling the producer to watch out for the divergent BrE/AmE spellings (other candidates were "rancour" and "anaesthetic"). We finally agreed that for the purposes of the contest, it was best to limit it to BrE spellings -- maybe that accounts for Susie Dent's stonewalling on the spelling.

  2. I think 'haitch-saying' is a (working) class thing in Britain. I do not know many from the aristocratic class, or those who attended expensive fee-paying schools like Eton or St Paul's, or indeed those who have immigrated into Britain recently from India, who are haitch-sayers.

    I once shared my firm's office with a law firm once and although almost employees were American women, the secretary was British. Oddly enough she once told me off (!) for not pronouncing my 'haitch' correctly. I apparently do not pronounce the 'h' and I wonder why! I had to remind the home counties girl that it was she, who was at fault, not I.

  3. Sorry, that should have been 'almost all' employees. Serves me right for not previewing..

  4. If you click on the word haitch in the post, you'll be taken to the original discussion of it here, with more observations/hypotheses re who says it and why.

  5. My boyfriend is from Northern Ireland and claims the Catholic/non-Catholic thing as to the haitch pronunciation. Oddly, the only people I've ever heard say it are born-and-bred Londoners and some more well-to-do sorts from the home counties...

  6. I worked until recently in Sky customer services. One of the great things about the job was the opportunity to hear English spoken in every conceivable accent. One of the worst things was the number of people who said "haitch." Not saying it's wrong as such, but it just grates on my nerves. In three years on that job, the only people I ever heard say it were working class English people, or at least people with working class English accents. I apologise for using the phrase "working class," but there really is no other way to say what I was saying.

  7. Here's a nice article on aitch vs. haitch. As a Liverpudlian I couldn't possibly agree with the author's stance, although I admit that we are sometimes guilty of over-correction. Like cockneys, scousers normally drop so many (h)aitches that we put too many back in when we are trying to sound posh.

    This reminds me of a childhood friend who once corrected my 'chicken' to 'chicking'.

  8. To my ear, all Englishmen drop aitches, but in differing proportions. The first time I heard someone say "haitch", I assumed it was a family joke. Alas, I grinned. Oops.

  9. I can confirm that "haitch" prevails in the Republic of Ireland; I was a graduate before I realized foreigners said it differently. Since we also pronounce the [r] in R, that leaves W as the only letter that doesn't include its own sound in its name. Although Y only has its vowel sound [wai]; perhaps to be consistent we should call Y [yai] and W [d@bl wu].

    In Ireland two other letters may have unusual names:

    R often sounds like or rather than are, which makes puns like "Toys R Us" even more contrived and irritating. State broadcaster RTE seems lately to have enforced "Are-Tee-Ee", which grates with some (including me).

    A is occasionally pronounced to rhyme with spa rather than spay (I think that's Irish-language influence). The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) may be derisively called the "Gee-Ah-Ah" (subtext: backward rustics).

  10. PS: Although today is Talk like a pirate day, with the Irish pronunciation of R, this joke is not funny.

  11. On first moving Stateside from the UK (I'm British) I noticed that many people dropped the H from many words I'd always considered to have them - Herb being the most noteable of course, but also Homage, Herbivore and so on. I wrote to the OED and asked why this was and they basically told me that both ways were acceptable, but dropping haiches was far less common in the UK.
    My wife promptly pointed out that Cockneys drop haiches all the time, far more than Americans - but as an old Cockney friend of mine once told me "I say aich all the time mate, you just can't 'ear it."

  12. Again, I refer people interested in h's back to the link on 'herbs and haitches' (click the 'haitch' link in this post). It makes more sense to have that discussion there! :)

  13. Lynne,

    This is coming a little late, I know, but we enjoyed your VERY brief appearance on the Ant and Dec programME. We had dinner out that evening but recorded the show to watch on Sunday. My husband previewed it the next morning, telling me that I'd better not blink or I'd miss you. He was right...but it was still great to see you!


  14. Thanks, Janet--I'm not sure what you saw in it!

    If anyone else wants to see how brief it is, search Ant Dec Spelling Bee on YouTube. I'm in part 1 and the bee is in part 2.


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)