Monday, August 2, 2010

How Do You Say Moth?

Young Huck Finn calls his mother, “Hey Ma!”

Hear that “ah” sound in the word, “Ma?” Making an “ah” sound requires a wide-open mouth like when we say, “father,” “gaga,” or “Ali Baba.”

A sympathetic friend hears your tale of woe and says, “Aw!” This “awe” sound requires a circular mouth like when we say the words, “often,” “fawn,” or “shawl.”

There’s a subtle but important difference between these two sounds, “ah” and “awe.”

People on the east coast call the creature that flutters around porch lights, “mawth” (rhymes with “awe”) which is to me a richer, rounder, more manly way to identify this bug.

People on the west coast call these guys, “mahth” (rhymes with “ah”) which to me sounds smarmy, shallow, and insubstantial. It’s a wimpy way to identify a bug.

If you shouted at me, “Look out! Here comes a flying mahth,” I’d casually glance up with a disinterested air wondering what all the panic is all about.

But if you shouted, “Look out! Here comes a flying mawth,” I’d duck and cover and ask questions later.

If we’re going to talk about these critters, we have to get our dialects in sync. For practice, please repeat after me, “I often put a shawl around my fawn to protect it from moths.”

Do not say, “Ali Baba goes gaga when his father swats moths.”

So please, west coast folk, stop calling them “mahths” and start calling them “mawths.” It’s the right thing to do.

And think of the lives you’ll save.

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