Re: "Hwhy is David James in Hwhite Rock? For the Cash, man," the Now, Dec. 27.
I enjoyed your article about David James and his tribute to Johnny Cash. James describes Cash's pronunciation of the h in "wh" words (such as "what" sounding like "hwat") as an "Arkansas speech habit."
It's more than that - it's the traditional pronunciation, still used by the upper classes and taught by elocution teachers throughout the former British empire. I learned it in central Africa.
There were strong ties between England and the U.S. South before the U.S. Civil War. Plantation owners belonged to the upper classes, so they spoke that way and their descendants still do. In Old English the 'h' was even written first ("white" was "hwit"), but today almost the only "wh" word that everyone still pronounces the original way is "who".
Alan T. Chattaway, Surrey