At Bishop Alemany High School, the one from the 60’s, not the one that is in a new location and probably is the same, but not, study hall was in the middle of the campus. At that time, having no clue if it’s the same now, although I could probably check, there was a boy’s side and a girl’s side. I’m not even sure that’s what they called it, nevertheless that’s what it was. When you walked up the main steps you came to a breezeway, one side was the girl’s office, the other side the boy’s. Yeah, co-educational down to the administration. You walked on campus into an open quad. On the other side of the quad was the chapel, small, very small. Mass for the school being held in the gym. Behind the chapel and up one level was study hall. Then one more level up was the library, my personal favorite. We had an eight period day, and you could only take seven courses, or was it a seven period day and you could only take six courses? Not the point of the story. If you weren’t in class, you ‘took” and I use the term very loosely, study hall. My Aunt Ann, aunt on my Dad’s side, was the study hall moderator, and when I was a sophomore I received detention for eating carrots in study hall. Pretty stupid to eat something that crunched, shoulda stuck with raisins, but no, I liked carrots.
Now we said Ant Ann, not Aunt Ann. The Aunt always sounded a bit strange coming off the tongue, that ‘u’ or \ah\ sound almost creating an affectation, and I truly have an intense dislike for affectation which is the top of a slippery slope down to pseudo-elitism. Fast forward maybe twenty years, I was on the T in Boston, the redline actually, from Quincey Center to downtown. It was winter, everyone in their black coats, scarves, mittens or gloves. The T overheated, crowded, loud. I was surrounded by three people, younger than me, louder than me and most definitely very opinionated and very willing to share their views, whether anyone wanted to hear them or not. The girl, woman, female of the group was expounding on the stupidity of people who pronounce Aunt ant. Apparently someone in her office had the gall to talk about her Ant Betty. And this girl, woman, female spit out her pronouncement with little regard for any one else’s space. “An ant is a six-legged, hooked clawed, winged creature with two antennae and compound eyes. At least she could say it correctly, Ahnt.”
In Webster’s the pronunciation key uses \ˈant, ˈänt\ . In the OED they suggest pronunciation of \ah-nt\. not pronouncing the u, but the \ah\ sound. Sigh. Two very respected research resources, two different views. Personally, I wanted to send this girl to detention. But all I could think of was the 1937 Gershwin song, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off which had more to do with class differences than regional differences. “Hey,” I wanted to say, “we’re past that, aren’t we? We don’t mock speech patterns. We are tolerant and open, this after all is the 1980’s.” The two men, boys, males were far too affirming of the girl’s proclamation. I suspected the truth was they had lost to her many times in the past, her verbal style sharp, direct, cutting for them to even vaguely attempt to suggest she was anything but right. So, yeah! detention for her, loudly crunching in a public place, for being obnoxious and bullying and yes, because for her it was all about elitism.