settling an argument
My father mentioned how he is currently embroiled in an argument regarding the use of "height" versus "highth" to represent the measurement from the base to the top of an object. He says it's "height", and of course he is correct, but in the area of central Pennsylvania where he lives (and I am from), "highth" is not uncommon. In fact, I would say that it's the more common of the two forms, in both casual conversation and even in news stories. More often than not, if I am talking about the width and [insert variant here] of something, I say "highth" and then feel stupid, but it's one of those words that you can't do a darn thing about, because you grew up with it. If I am writing about width and [variant], I don't think I'd ever write "highth" -- it's just not proper. Sort of like how we might say "younses" for plural "you", but I'd never write it -- I know better!
Anyway, sorry Dad, but "highth" is not wrong. It's just the nonstandard version, but it is
the original version. "Highth" comes from the Old English word pronounced "heahthu". In Middle English, the usage of the final "t" and "th" sounds varied, and the final "t" sound won out as "common" usage. But, "highth" is all through Milton's Paradise Lost
, and stuck around the vernacular because of its association to other measuring-related words ending in "th", e.g. width, breadth, length.