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Why Does “Ghost” Have an “H”?

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What is the letter H doing in the English word ghost? The answer has to do with 15th-century Flemish typesetters working for the English printer William Caxton. They often added an H after an initial hard G to reflect the spelling of cognates in their own language. While many of those spellings didn’t stick, the G in ghost did, probably because the term Holy Ghost appeared so often in early printed works. Linguist Arika Okrent explains a host of linguistic conundrums like that in her new, highly accessible book Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don’t Rhyme — and Other Oddities of the English language. (Bookshop|Amazon). This is part of a complete episode.

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