This one just looks plain wrong to me. Though it sounds pretty awkward with an “a” too. Perhaps homage is a word to avoid? Tribute might upset me less.

Of course it all depends on how you pronounce the word: “a” if the “h” is sounded as a consonant, “an” if the “h” is silent and the word sounds like it’s started with a vowel. I suppose there may be people who pronounce the word as ‘omage — they’re probably the same ones who stay in ‘otels. In another corner of the linguistic world I guess one would say “Lend us an ‘and”.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme provide a transatlantic break point just like tomayto, tomahto. They are herbs to me, while to all around me they are merely ‘erbs. That always sounds to me like a Cockney telling me to “Lend ‘Erb an ‘and”. D. H. Lawrence was not David Erbert Lawrence, though, come to think of it, who knows how his family would refer to him. That most fondly remembered of schoolteachers, H. H. Mills, was a Bertie, but you knew that those two “H”s would always be sounded. Australian miler extraordinaire Herb Elliott was no shrinking ‘Erb. (My mother, whose mother was a Border Eliot, would always tell me that Herb’s surname should really be spelled with only two consonants — though if you felt the need, for whatever crazy reason, it was acceptable to double either of the consonants, but never both. I bet we’d have welcomed Herb at any clan reunion though.)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary homage/’omage is another of those UK/US differences, so as Mr Spinnen’s book was published by David R. Godine of Boston, MA, I suppose I have to withdraw my objection. Never heard of an American paying ‘omage though. I guess it’s not a word that comes up too often. The country was kind of founded to get away from this sort of thing. Just yesterday I did at last hear an American on the radio mentioning homage in connection with some sports personality, and he did indeed say ‘omage. This doesn’t alter my objection to the oddness, ugliness of the word whichever way you jump.

I wonder if there’s something in all this about our relative closeness to/respect for France. The word does sounds better in French, un homage actually sounds quite worth having. I assume this French connection is the origin of the American pronunciation of the word. This is however a little surprising: the break usually seems to go the other way. What we in America call an eggplant is a British aubergine, which of course is no more than a French import. In America we eat zucchini (when we can’t avoid it). In Britain this becomes a courgette. The Brits seem hard-wired to pay homage to French cuisine (we don’t even have our own word for that) with courgettes, aubergines, éclairs, bouquet garni, mayonnaise, mache, roquette, not to go as far back as omelets, beef, pork, veal and mutton.

Parenthetically, on the subject of letterspacing, I think I’d prefer to see a little more space between those Os in the title, and a little less between the M and the A in HOMAGE. Might pull in that G too, the A just has too much air around it. Still, David Godine always makes a handsome (or do I mean an ‘andsome) book, and I can’t imagine that the cover designer didn’t consider the options here. If you cut up the letters and try different versions, who knows but that the one they ended up choosing won’t turn out to be the best.