the letter h, phoenician, author, silentThough it’s a high-value letter in Scrabble and Words with Friends, H is a relatively common letter. Statistically speaking, it is the eighth most commonly used letter in the English language. That’s because H is usually paired with other consonants like wh, ch, sh, and gh. H is found in the most common two-letter pair (th) and in the most common three-letter combination (the). Find the raw data here. (The letter H is typically pronounced aitch.)

Where did the letter come from, though? It can be traced back to Northern Semitic languages and today is the English corollary to the Hebrew letter heth, which is pronounced as it is spelled. (Some letters like u and j are relatively new to written language. Who is responsible for the letter J?)

Phoenician and proto-Semitic languages are the earliest recorded alphabets that use symbols to represent sounds rather than to represent things like Egyptian hieroglyphics. (Greek is considered the first true alphabet because it uses symbols to represent both consonant and vowel sounds). In proto-Semitic, the letter H was also the word for thread or fence, and if you look at the letter H, it is still clear that it looks like a portion of a fence.

Like most stories of the English language, the tale of the H involves scribes in England in the 1000s and 1100s. As the French influence on Middle English began, the letter h kept moving around, coming in and out of words. Take the word author. The word originally entered the language from French as autour, but around the 1500s, scribes started inserting the h and changed it into author. Scribes also put Hs on the beginning of words, even though the Hs remained silent, as in the words honest and historical. So today we often put the article an before words that start with a silent H, as in the phrase, “an honest Joe.” (Why do we capitalize letters in the first place? Find out.)

What other letters of the English language would you like to learn about? Do you have a favorite letter?


The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) November 7, 2002 | LESLIE ANDERSON PHOTO FINDS – Some photographers still shoot pictures in black and white. And Tony Decaneas still processes their film.

But Panopticon Inc. has come a long way since 1970, when Decaneas started a custom black-and-white photo lab in Boston’s Back Bay as a way to support his love of photography.

Over three decades – and a move to Waltham two years ago – Panopticon has gained renown as a gallery for artists ranging from 19th-century Alpine photographer Vittorio Sella to mid-20th-century civil rights chronicler Ernest Withers. website bellingham high school

This month, visitors to the gallery at 435 Moody St. can view “Discoveries,” a show by German photographer Ulrich Mach, an artist- in-residence at Boston University. It features a series of portraits of artists Francoise Gilot and Alexander Calder.

But they also can explore a new offering at Decaneas’s gallery: bins of vintage and contemporary photographs that carry neither big names nor big prices. Carefully matted and priced at $50 and up, the images range from firetrucks and sporting events to 19th-century urban landscapes.

“People can buy instant ancestors if they want,” said Decaneas, who lives in Weston. “They are fun. Some of them are campy and others are really quite artistic and socially relevant.” BINGO BONKERS – Chloe is a chain-smoking dollmaker who is renowned for her replicas of “bingo ladies.” Her brother is obsessed with Spider Man and psychologically reverts to infancy upon hearing he’s about to be a father.

Add to the mix a homecoming queen who gives birth to a baby boy in the locker room, and you’ve got “Bingo Under the Crucifix,” the latest satire penned by Laurie Foos, 36, of Shrewsbury. “I’m not terribly religious, but I did play bingo as a kid,” said Foos, whose previous comedic novels include “Ex Utero,” “Portrait of the Walrus by a Young Artist,” and “Twinship.” Foos teaches a prose writing workshop twice a month at Borders Books and Music in Shrewsbury. Newcomers are welcome (they should call the store ahead at 508-845-8665). The next workshop is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Foos has the same advice for new and experienced writers. “My philosophy, especially in first drafts, is writing as close to the unconscious as possible. Just let things come,” she said. “Then you have to be like a surgeon when you’re revising.” FAMILY FRIENDLY – You’d love to go shopping for art, but you lack two things: a baby sitter and a fat wallet. site bellingham high school

Not to worry. Neither one is necessary at this weekend’s Holliston Mill Open Studios, where shoppers can choose from a panoply of affordable artwork while their children are entertained with face painting and water balloon yo-yos.

“Our shows are more for the general public,” said Christine Santo, who fashions one-of-a-kind lamps with wooden balls, glass beads, pieces of metal, and shades made from banana tree fiber.

“It’s hard to cough up $500 for a wall painting. It’s much easier and more gratifying to go to an event that’s fun and be able to actually buy things that are totally unique and affordable and practical.” Melissa Glen makes ceramic ornaments, mosaic mirrors, and murals. Nicole St. Pierre designs shibori silk scarves, jackets, and ties. Other artists sell handbags, restyled vintage clothing, and semiprecious stone jewelry.

Landscape artists, photographers, and printmakers round out the show, with a special visit from guest artist Elle Randall, who creates portraits of children on the spot for just $12.

VENTURESOME BRASS – Next week, Bellingham High’s big brass band will take a few lessons from a little brass band.

Brass Venture, a quintet based in Whitinsville, will hold music clinics for band members Nov. 15, then follow up with a public concert at 7 that night at Bellingham High School auditorium.

Admission is $5. All proceeds from the concert, which is sponsored by the Bellingham Friends of Music, will be used to buy additional concert uniforms for the high school band.

MUSEUM NEWS – For an institution dedicated to preserving the past, there’s a lot of news coming from Framingham’s historical society.

First of all, it has a new director, Thomas S. Harris, who formerly oversaw the Thoreau Society in Lincoln. Second, it has a new logo, which incorporates a circa 1840 view of Framingham Centre.

Finally, it has a new name – Framingham Historical Society and Museum – to spread the message that four centuries of history are on view at the society’s museum at the corner of Vernon and Grove streets.

The museum is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. For information, call 508-872-3780.

WIZARD OF MILLIS – The Millis Theatre Group will present Don A. Mueller’s adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz” through Nov. 16 at the Church of Christ Auditorium on Exchange Street (Route 115).

Performances are 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. Nov. 15, and 2 and 8 p.m. Nov. 16. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $8 for children under 12. For more information, call 508-376-5404.

GUYS AND DOLLS – Newton Country Players, a community theater group that has entertained audiences for the past eight decades, will begin performances this weekend of the classic musical “Guys and Dolls.” The production, which features tunes such as “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat,” will take place at the Windsor Club, 1601 Beacon St., in Waban.

Performances are at 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, 9, 15, and 16, and at 3 p.m. on Nov. 10 and 17. Tickets are $15; senior citizens and students pay $13. For more information, call 617-244-9538.

Leslie Anderson can be reached at anderson @globe.com.



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  2. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  November 25, 2013 - 6:20 am

    Cool. Never knew that b4.

    Thank you ira. I was about to say, “What the heck does the letter H have to do with Ron Weasley?”

  3. Armor Game -  January 8, 2013 - 4:07 am

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research about this. We got a book from our area library but I think I learned more from this post. I am very glad to see such fantastic information being shared freely out there..

  4. ira -  June 13, 2012 - 11:58 am

    I think it has to do with Ron Weasley because it is often found paired up with another letter (that being Harry I guess?). Yeah… you guys should have made that clear.

  5. Alphonso Dunsford -  May 17, 2012 - 7:14 pm

    I have taken note that of all varieties of insurance, medical care insurance is the most controversial because of the issue between the insurance plan company’s duty to remain profitable and the consumer’s need to have insurance policies. Insurance companies’ profits on health plans are certainly low, thus some providers struggle to make a profit. Thanks for the concepts you talk about through this site.

  6. Renee -  May 13, 2012 - 3:02 pm

    1.think of your crush
    2.make a heart with your hands
    3.then kiss your hand while still making the heart
    4.then put the heart where your real heart is
    5.tomorrow your crush will ask you out
    6.this will only work if u post this on your favorite article

  7. DC Fawcett -  April 24, 2012 - 6:50 am

    I’d like to learn about the letter H. You have a nice website here.

  8. No Name -  April 14, 2012 - 11:27 am

    i get it!!!!!!!!!

    sometimes dictionary.com has confusing titles, but this makes sense to me now!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. MichellePetro -  April 14, 2012 - 11:27 am

    I love the Harry Potter series!!!!!!!

    @Ron Weasley, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha NOT.
    u should not be dating Lavender Brown. Hermione is interested in you….go out with her…..P.S. i know you 2 marry at the end even tho i didnt even finish the 6th book yet……..

    LOL i know ur not the real Ron Weasley, there isn’t one ; Rupert Grint is just an actor.
    so i dont need a mary torres commenting you actually thought he was the real Ron Weasley???????? (no offense to mary torres i just used you as an example bcoz i know u comment a lot. p.s. i <3 u the most ur personality is really unique judging by ur comments.)

  10. April -  April 11, 2012 - 2:01 pm

    I find that odd. You would think that since it is so common that it would be the most worn-out on most people’s keyboards and yet, it is the letter N which holds that honor of having the letter worn to the point where it is halfway invisible.

  11. MrBossMan -  April 4, 2012 - 12:30 pm

    Also, we typically don’t put an “an” before words like “unicorn” that are pronounced with an apparent Y at the beginning.

  12. Lara -  February 17, 2012 - 9:58 am

    Citrus’s answer kind of does make sense………

  13. Lara -  February 17, 2012 - 8:26 am

    I don’t get it. What does H have to do with Ron?

  14. o -  February 13, 2012 - 7:26 pm

    I only clicked on this because it said “Ron Weasley” I didn’t realize that it was comparing “H” to “Rom Weasley”. Ron Weasley is not common by the way!

  15. mary torres -  February 12, 2012 - 12:48 pm


  16. Ron Weasley -  February 12, 2012 - 11:06 am

    Huff, thanks a lot. I am a respected wizard and when you call me a tag along dude and relate me to H it makes me say a wizard swear. If my brothers heard about this they reducto you into nothing. Also, I feel like your making fun of my family because H stands for Hobo. I am now a depressed Ron Weasley, thanks a lot.

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