Wednesday, 15 October 2014


First, someone asked me what the title of last week's column had to do with its contents. Not a lot, really, but I was inspired by this sketch from the Secret Policeman's Ball, which always raises a smile:

I remain as convinced as the late, great John Fortune that there is only one correct way to pronounce certain words, including troll.

Secondly, another correspondent queried how on Earth anyone can possibly mispronounce "Hann". Ah, reader, let me count the ways! You might think, particularly if you happen to be called Cholmondeley, Featherstonehaugh or Postlethwaite, that you could not go far wrong with a nice, simple surname comprising just four letters. Yet it still needs to be spelt out every single time I give it to anyone, is frequently recorded as "Mann" (though that is no more common a name if the telephone book provides any sort of guide) and is regularly misspelt and mispronounced as "Haan" or "Hahn". What really gets me is the invincible conviction of their own rightness that drives some people to continue calling me "Hahn" even after I have politely pointed out that it's "Hann" and rhymes with "pan".

Having K as a solitary initial creates the added complication that it is also from time to time misrendered as Khan. Indeed, when I opened an account with the NatWest many years ago they went so far as send me a debit card in the name of Mr K Khan.

Finally, it was suggested that "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" would make an appropriate addition to the short list of maxims with which I concluded. I agree, and it was another favourite saying of my late mother. However, I fear that strict adherence to this precept would result in Wednesday's Newcastle Journal regularly going to press with a large blank space where my column ought to be.

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