Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Herb or 'erb

Written by Bertha Reppert in 1981 and found in the archives of The Rosemary House, this subject is a pertinent today as it was then.

“A herb is an erb is a herb is an erb” to paraphrase a certain G. Stein and with apologies to rose lovers everywhere. The pronunciation of this simple four letter word unnerves the most forthright conversationalist.

It’s “ee-ther” or “i-ther” -- take your choice. As my erudite consort states, “If you’re French, it’s erb; if your English, it’s herb; if your American, say urb.”

The dictionary gives you a choice in the matter, listing both pronunciations as acceptable. Strangely enough, there is no such controversy about ”herbacesous,” the original root of the word. Here Mr. Webster uses the h and gives us no options. The same is true of herbal, herbalist, herbarium and herbivorous. In each of these the opening h is pronounced, loud and clear, just as one would say Herbert.

The Herb Society of America has indeed encouraged the use of the initial h in the pronunciation of its charge. This dedicated organization, so fiercely devoted to the husbandry of all things herbal, gives the word the full dignity of all four letters, saying HERB loud and clear.

I have trained myself to say herb with the h. Not easy in the beginning, I’ve discovered it gives the simple little word an explicitness desirable in speaking on the subject and useful to the practicing herbalist.

And so, gentle reader, the choice is yours. Say what you will. Join the crusade to adopt the h or drop it as is custom in this land. To me, the important thing is to be aware of these simple little plants, not how you say it. It is enough to recognize their importance to history of man and to know that they are useful today – sometimes in different ways – as they were in the time of Genesis.

5 comments:

Steph said...

Fun! Thank you for sharing this. I also have made a link (finally) to your blog from mine.

luccy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sheela said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Kaylee

http://www.craigslistpostingonline.info

sheela said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Kaylee

http://www.craigslistpostingonline.info

~~louise~~ said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I am doing a post celebrating National Herb Week and would love to include your link in my post.

You have a lovely blog here and I have bookmarked it so I may return as soon as I get this Horseradish post finished. Thanks again, Louise