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On Jul 7, 2009, at 6:49 AM, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets wrote:

> 2009/7/7 Eugene Oh <[log in to unmask]>
>
>> A question I have is why "héros" is aspiré but "héroïsme" is muet!
>> Is there an etymological explanation for that?
>>
>>
> Actually, it's all the derivatives (like the feminine "héroïne")  
> that have a
> mute h. Only "héros" has an aspirated h. I don't know about an  
> etymological
> explanation for that, but a common explanation is that if the h was  
> mute,
> the plural "les héros" would be indistinguishable from "les zéros",  
> and we
> just can't have that, can we? ;)
>
> I don't know whether this is an after-the-fact memory tool, or an  
> actual
> description of why the <h> stayed aspirated in this word and not  
> the others.
>
> Note that the "h aspiré" category of words isn't stable. Words slip  
> to the
> "h muet" category all the time. For instance, the word "haricot"  
> has an
> aspirated h, but it's getting more and more common to hear it with  
> a mute h.

Like _Zydeco_ < _les haricots (sont pas salé)_ :)

> It could be that originally all the words derived from "héros" had an
> aspirated h and lost it, except for "héros" itself due to the  
> pressure of
> keeping its plural distinct from the plural of the word "zéro",  
> which when
> used to qualify people is basically an antonym of "héros". But as I  
> wrote
> above, I don't know whether that story is true, or just an after- 
> the-fact
> rationalisation.
> -- 
> Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.
>
> http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
> http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/