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Why is it spelled...?

Why is there an <h> in spaghetti?

In a tally of spelling errors among college remedial spelling students 19 out of 25 different ways to misspell spaghetti involved leaving out the <h>. Not too surprisingly, spaghetti is an Italian word. It's the plural diminutive of spago "cord, string," thus spaghetti spagh+ett›+i› means "little strings." Notice that there's no <h> in spago. The <g> is inserted for reasons that parallel the treatment of hard and soft <g> in English. In Italian, just as in English, the letter <g> spells [j] before <e> or <i>, and it spells [g] elsewhere. In English in order to insulate a <g> before <e> or <i> and thus keep it from being pronounced [j] we insert a <u>: Thus we have guest [gest] and roguish [|ro·gish], with <g> pronounced [g], as compared with gest [jest] "exploit" and roger [|roj·schwar], with <g> pronounced [j]. In Italian, rather than <u>, they use <h> to insulate a <g> spelling [g] before <e> or <i>, as in ghetto and spaghetti (AES, 27.2.3).

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