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English: Is there a difference between O and Oh?

Oh, O Wonderful Choralisters!

My original post:
What is the difference between “O” and “Oh”, i.e. “BLESS THE LORD OH MY
SOUL” vs. “O God Beyond All Praising”?

Oh, what interesting answers we have!!-----------------------------------------------------
There is no practical difference at all. The “O” (or spelled “Oh” in
English) is the vocative article in Attic Greek and in Latin, and the name
that followed it was in the appropriate case (vocative, meaning direct
address). The American slang “Yo” to get someone’s attention is exactly the
same thing. (I find it interesting that 4000+ years later, the same phoneme
means the same thing; rather like Kodaly’s observations on so-mi-la-so-mi!)

In Greek, it was an omega with a rough breathing; scholars disagree on
whether the rough breathing had an [h] sound or not, hence the KJV “Ho,
everyone that thirsteth” in Isaiah. A Hebrew/Greek scholar would have to
tell you whether or not the “Ho” of the KJV reflects the Septuagint Greek
only, or whether the actual Hebrew vocative article is “ho” or “oh” or
something different. I never did Hebrew, only Greek and Latin. The Greek
“O” is the article used by St. Paul-- “O Corinthians” --and has a formal
connotation as well as, in his context, some urgency about it. In modern
English we use “Oh” in the formal vocative sense (“Oh, John, could you...”)
as well as in an much more informal way to preface a sudden thought or to
express surprise.

Greek passed the vocative O down into Slavonic and Russian and Hungarian,
hence its usage in the Orthodox and Byzantine-rite Catholic liturgies. The
Latin “O” had no rough-breath/aspirate connotations, and it of course passed
into the Romance languages and thence to English via Norman French.

In your two citations, the “O God” is the formal vocative, while “Oh my
soul” is both the formal vocative and the “pay attention” usage in English
(formed by the propagation of the KJV and later the Douay translations). In
your liturgy and mine, we have the O antiphons and chants/chant-based motets
such as “O magnum mysterium” and “O salutaris hostias” where the the O
indicates that what follows is a title or name, which most people figure out
in the context of the O antiphons but not necessarily in the latter. It
helps that in The Hymnal 1940 and some Catholic hymnals and missalettes the
titles are capitalized in “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

The only difference in pronunciation between “Oh” in English and “O” in
Greek, Latin, or the Romance languages is (as I’m sure you know!) that the
English has the off-glide [u] at the end while the others are a pure [ç]
(that’s the open-oh if the SIL Doulas IPA font doesn’t read). The choice to
use an aspirate [h] in the Greek/Russian/Slavonic contexts is up to the

Probably more information than you wanted to know, for what it’s worth!-----------------------------------------------------
The difference is 0 as in zero.------------------------------------------------------
These days -- somewhat arbitrary.

In some instances "oh" is just a later spelling of "O".

In stricter usage -- in other words, by writers who want to maintain
distinctions -- "O" is used before a name in direct address, to lend
earnestness: Hear, O Israel! O God Beyond All Praising.

"Oh" perhaps more as a true exclamation, expressing pain, joy, exultation,

But for the most part, any distinction is largely lost in modern usage.
(Perhaps sometimes the decision is made based upon spacing of text in
I'm not sure if Ms. Glissman was inquiring about the semantical use of "Oh"
and "O" and if they actually have different orgins- (i.e.- where did the h
come from? Do they mean different things?)

I guess I'm more curious as to how the vowel sound changes (if there is
change) from your singers if they read the same vowel different ways.

Psychologically, is "O" any different from "Oh"?-----------------------------------------------------
There's no difference! O and Oh actually aren't even words, or at least not
ones you can find in a normal dictionary.

If you ever do Latin, you might want to consider a slightly different
pronunciation of the "o" vowel; Latin "o's" are not diphthongs. When we say
"Oh" in English, we are actually saying a combination of "o" followed be a
slight "u." In ecclesiastical Latin, it should just be the straight "o"
O Used before the name of or a pronoun referring to a person or thing
being formally addressed: “How can I put it to you, O you who prepare to
travel with important matters on your mind?” (Jo Durden-Smith).
Used to express surprise or strong emotion: “O how I laugh when I think of
my vague indefinite riches” (Henry David Thoreau).
Oh Used to express strong emotion, such as surprise, fear, anger, or pain.
Used in direct address: Oh, sir! You forgot your keys.
Used to indicate understanding or acknowledgment of a statement.-----------------------------------------------------
I think it is just a different spelling, sing them the same.-----------------------------------------------------
The are synonymous interjections.-----------------------------------------------------
Um,.... the 'h' ??? :-)-------------------------------------------------------
Very good question. If you have access to the _American Heritage Dictionary_

(that's what I happen to have on my desk), it discusses in the "Usage"
section, exactly your question. I think that many publishers are
inconsistent with
the correct usage, however (as in your example above). In a nutshell, "O" is

always capitalized, is never followed by punctuation, and is used primarily
religious or poetic contexts. The interjection "oh" is only capitalized if
it is
the first word of a sentence and is usually followed by a comma or some
punctuation (e.g., !, ?, ., etc.). It can express "strong emotions" or a
a "reflective pause".-------------------------------------------------------
In current casual usage, they're largely interchangeable. In careful,
if perhaps somewhat archaic, usage, "oh" is an interjection, an
exclamation of surprise, or used in direct address to get a person's
attention ("Oh, John, what are you doing now?"); while "O" is used in
direct address, usually when a petition is involved ("Bless the Lord, O
my soul" -- from this point of view "Bless the Lord, oh my soul" is not
quite proper). Prayers that might otherwise begin with an adjective of
attribute (e.g., "Almighty and most merciful Father, ...") begin with
"O" in the absence of such an introductory adjective ("O Lord our
Governor, ..."). An initial "O" is usually followed by the name or
title of the person being addressed.

However, maintaining the distinction between "Oh" and "O" would probably
be viewed as unnecessarily pedantic in most quarters these days, and the
use of one or the other seen as a matter of personal aesthetic choice.-----------------------------------------------------
If I were a smart aleck, I'd say that one has an H, and the other doesn't...

In fact, they're just alternate spellings of the same thing. "O" (without
the H) is more often used in addressing a person or object.-----------------------------------------------------
If anyone tries to tell you it's any more than alternative spellings, I
think they're pulling your leg (or have had theirs pulled) - no subtle
difference in pronunciation.-------------------------------------------------------

Liz Glissman
Director of Choral Music (and anything Brass!!!)
Saint Patrick Catholic Church
17 Saint Patrick Lane
Rolla, MO  65401
573-578-8918 (cell)
573-364-1435 (rectory)