Laugh is a Funny Word


I just posted a little blog, entitled, Laughter is Good for the Heart, and after I posted it, I looked at the word, “LAUGH.”


Look at it. Really look at it.

Pay attention to how it’s spelled and listen to yourself pronounce it. Why isn’t it pronounced L-A-U-E with a silent gh? Or L-A-W-F? Or even L-A-W? Why spell it with an augh? It might have been funnier to spell the word, L-A-F-F.

Due to my curiosity, I pulled out my etymology book to find out how the word, Laugh, originated. I found this: “Probably before 1200 lahhen.”

Probably? Aren’t etymology books the Holy Grail of word originations? I honestly did not expect to find the word, “Probably,” in the explanation portion for the word, “Laugh.”

Upon further reading, I found that in 1375, the word changed to “Laughen.” How did that happen? “Hear Ye, Hear Ye,” Lahhen shouted! “I no longer want to be called Lahhen. From this point forward, my name is Laughen.”

Or did somebody, a king or other notable entity, issue an edict and proclaim, “From now on lahhen will be spelled l-a-u-g-h-e-n – the double ‘H’ has been replaced with  UGH!”

The original pronunciation, according to my book of etymology, was “like that of the Scottish loch or the German ach“. The pronunciation also shifted to the softer sounding F, about which I am grateful. After all, it just doesn’t sound pleasing to the ear to say, “I loched so hard, I choked.” That back-of-the-throat sound can be kind of disgusting sometimes.

According to this etymology book the new pronunciation sounded more like the augh in draught. Ah! That makes perfect sense, because now I understand the connection between laughter and beer.

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7 thoughts on “Laugh is a Funny Word”

  1. I hate breaking things down because it’s easier to lose things when there’s more pieces involved!

    1. But sometimes when we examine them letter by letter, we make fun of them and then write about them 🙂

  2. The English language is such a jumble of backgrounds, that there are probably a lot of “probablys” in the etymology! And standardized spelling was “probably” impossible before dictionaries were well distributed. So, there is much to laugh about in our language.

    1. I am suddenly reminded of an old movie starring Ringo Starr where all the characters grunted throughout most of the movie. – Caveman! Language is so much prettier.

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