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They say language is a living thing. Year by year it evolves in thousands of subtle ways, each of which accrues unto a language re-conceived. Perhaps it is this very fluidity that partly explains my tireless resistance to mastering the formal rules of punctuation and style — at least those dictated by past English teachers and the style emperors who presume to know the language as it must be known.

For me, no rules of language exist at all. We ought to use whatever punctuation and whichever words best get across what we wish said, how we wish it understood. If, as has been the case with Ebonics, cultural dialects lead to the perpetuation of stereotypes and ignorance, such is the cost of our free and fluid expression.

In fact, quite charming words have fallen into disuse in only the last few centuries:

Quagswagging -noun – “The action of shaking to and fro”
Jollux – noun – Slang phrase used in the late 18th century to describe a “fat person”


And new charmers have recently ascended to the Oxford Dictionary of English:

bromance – a close but non-sexual relationship between two men

automagically – automatically and in a way that seems ingenious, inexplicable, or magical

turducken – a roast dish consisting of a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey


But were it possible for one very humble man to alter the course of a living language — beyond his heroic refusal to acknowledge the rules of formal usage — my contribution would concern use of the article “a” before any words starting with the letter “h.” In other words, “a historic fart…” would become “an historic bowel movement…”, as it were.

Use of “a” before the ‘h” pulls from us a wheezy, perverted hissing sound; it creates an awkward, scary series of soft vowel sounds that feels as though it never actually ends. An “an” before an “h” is much more modest, reserved and distinguished — thus a suitable reflection upon the majority of us — myself included.

I would never, however, presume to make this new usage rule obligatory (Chicago and AP Stylists take note.) I only ask that, should you insist upon use of the “a” before any “h” words around me, you at least do me the basic courtesy of brushing your darn teeth first.