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Aitch

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 4:49 am
by David Myer

aitch


Debate rages in Australia on whether the correct name of the letter 'H' is aitch or haitch. I thought it was clear cut and that people who said haitch had been poorly educated. My observation (purely anecdotal) is that in Australia, it is people who have had a catholic education that use the word haitch - that is how they were taught. But it has always puzzled me why they were taught that way. I recently read a contribution to the debate that suggested that in fact haitch is correct because that is how it was in the old days, and claiming that because of its French origin, the initial h was dropped by ignorant English people who heard the French pronounce it as aitch even though it had an h at the beginning. Just as the French drop the initial h in pronouncing Henri, hotel and everything else with an initial h. Can the good doctor enlighten us all?

Re: aitch

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:57 pm
by Perry Lassiter
An off the cuff guess would be that haitch includes the letter in question. Aitch doesn't.

Re: aitch

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 6:51 pm
by David Myer
I suppose really it's an argument not about spelling (it is very rarely used) but about pronunciation. Should it be pronounced haitch by English speaking people? The French can do as they please and not be bound by pedantic semantics.

Re: aitch

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 12:22 pm
by LukeJavan8
And the French usually do.

Re: aitch

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 2:13 pm
by George Kovac
Not to overlook the obvious, but why limit your complaints to the silent (or not silent) "H"?

There is no "T" in "H," so why is it spelled that way?

As I hear it, the "T" is a waste of a character, as it is not pronounced in either "aitch" or "haitch." To do so would be like trying to say the number "8" and tacking on a "ch" at the end. Most native speakers of English can't do that trick with much grace. But Russian and Ukrainian speakers can navigate the almost similar sound "Ч" as, for example, the first consonant in the Russian spelling of Tchaikovsky: Чайковский.

My dictionary indicates the pronunciation of "aitch" as "[eych]" No "T."

Re: aitch

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 3:24 pm
by Philip Hudson
Gkvoc: You are right but please don't advocate spelling reform.

Re: aitch

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 3:35 pm
by George Kovac
Sertanlee naht. Wut good wood that doo?

Re: aitch

Posted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 8:07 pm
by David Myer
Thanks Gkovac. Your dictionary says pronunciation is eych with no 'T'. More interestingly for me, with no initial 'H'.

I have now come across this article from the BBC in 2010:

"British English dictionaries give aytch as the standard pronunciation for the letter H. However, the pronunciation haytch is also attested as a legitimate variant. We also do not ask broadcasters who naturally say haytch to change their pronunciation but if a broadcaster contacted to ask us, we would tell them that aytch is regarded as the standard pronunciation in British English, people can feel very strongly about this and this pronunciation is less likely to attract audience complaints.
Haytch is a standard pronunciation in Irish English and is increasingly being used by native English-speaking people all across the country, irrespective of geographical provenance or social standing. Polls have shown that the uptake of haytch by younger native speakers is on the rise. Schoolchildren repeatedly being told not to drop Hs may cause them to hyper-correct and insert them where they don't exist.
Jo Kim
BBC Pronunciation Unit"

Well, I find it fascinating. What it says to me is that if someone pronounces something wrongly, their having said it is in itself sufficient for it to become a valid variation. This is interesting logic indeed.

The same BBC story includes this para:

"Indeed the younger you are, the more likely you are to make says rhyme with lays rather than fez, ate rhyme with late rather than bet and to add a whole new syllable to mischievous, turning it in to miss-CHEEVY-us rather than MISS-chiv-us."

Wow! There's a can of worms too. If you are interested, here's the link:

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-11642588

Re: aitch

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 12:51 pm
by Philip Hudson
David: You quote BBC saying, "-- ate rhyme with late rather than bet--" In my experience only real rednecks rhyme ate with bet. I am not even redneck enough to use that except in jest. Doesn't ate rhyme with late in ordinary American and
British speech. The BBC spokesman may have been confused himself.

My favorite redneck sentence was declared by a distant cousin of mine as he got out of his car on coming to visit. He said, "I'v dun druv uh fur piece and ah hain't et nuthin' yit."

Re: aitch

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:09 pm
by David Myer
Love your cousin's vernacular, Philip!

Yes, my experience of 'et' is limited - both in UK and Australia. But it is neither specifically a down-market nor an up-market affectation. I do think the pronunciation tends to "we et prawns for lunch today". This is quite widespread here in Australia - partly because prawns are a major part of life here!

Re: aitch

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 10:40 pm
by Philip Hudson
David: Ate pronounced [et] is never heard in the USA except among those we lovingly call rednecks, from whence I sprung. Does the abundance of prawns affect one's pronunciation? :D

There are no prawns in the USA. They are all shrimp no matter the size or subspecies. Large shrimp are sometimes called jumbo shrimp, an oxymoron. In the UK, my experience is that they are almost always called prawns whatever the subspecies. I've never been to Australia. We have a restaurant chain in the USA called The Outback which pretends to be Australian. The company hired an Australian actor to advertise for them on TV. He had the Australian accent down pat. On the first take he said, "Let's put some prawns on the barbie", using two words alien to the USA. The director let barbie stay in the script since it gives the line an Australian ring that we would understand. But the word prawns was changed to shrimp lest he not be understood in The USA.

I had an Australian aunt who was something of an Australian aristocrat, if there is such a thing. She shuddered at the common Australian accent as per "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" and said no educated Australian talked that way.
Perhaps it is an example of Australian redneck-ism.

Re: aitch

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 1:58 pm
by LukeJavan8
At the Outback near where I live, they sometimes
affect the " 'owdy Mate", never goes over very well.

Re: aitch

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 7:24 pm
by David Myer
Perhaps that's because they don't say it right! Howdy is not very Australian. "G'day, mate", perhaps.

Re: aitch

Posted: Sun Aug 30, 2015 7:58 pm
by LukeJavan8
You're probably right. But here in the midlands
nobody gets any dialect right. So we can be
pretty pathetic. Good point.

Re: aitch

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 1:15 pm
by bamaboy56
Having been born, raised and living in the South and Deep South (two different locations), pronouncing "ate" as "et" is pretty common and hardly raises an eyebrow. Had a friend tell me the other day he's looking forward to hunting season this year "cause I like to clim trees", quote/unquote. Took me a second to realize he meant "climb" trees. He pronounced it KLIM.