Nick Enfield | The ‘aitch’ or ‘haitch’ debate has a dark side
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-16809,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,side_area_uncovered_from_content,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-17.2,qode-theme-bridge,qode_header_in_grid,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.6,vc_responsive

The ‘aitch’ or ‘haitch’ debate has a dark side

The ‘aitch’ or ‘haitch’ debate has a dark side

21 May 2018

A good number of Australians hate it when people refer to the letter “h” as “haitch”. They hate it with a passion.

While the “haitch” pronunciation is often linked to Irish Catholic education in times when Australian society was divided along sectarian lines, no research has conclusively established its true history. But whatever its origins, it continues to be regarded as a marker of “lower” segments of society.

In a recent talkback radio segment about language discrimination, one caller said his mother has a physical reaction when she hears “haitch”. Another explained that she so hates to hear people say “haitch” that she will not listen to the radio at all during HSC time. And another reported that as a pupil in a rural convent school, anyone who said “haitch” would get the ruler.

These foibles may seem like harmless banter about the texture of our language, but attitudes like this have a decidedly dark side.

For a start, they are irrational. People have a hard time explaining why “haitch” is wrong or bad. Often it is just a bodily response. But emotions like disgust and contempt mess with our critical faculties and lead us to ignore reason and instead go with our gut. It is easy to imagine that caller’s mother rejecting a job applicant because they said “haitch”. But why use such a superficial signal as a basis for determining a person’s true qualifications and capacities? It is not just discriminatory, but the haitch-hating employer may be depriving themselves of the best candidate for the job.

Similarly, the person who turns off the radio because they can’t stand to hear people say “haitch ess see” is depriving themselves of information and insights that they would normally find useful.

The problem gets worse when our feelings about language lead us to threaten violence over how others pronounce their words—independent of the content of what they are saying. This ranges from convent girls getting the ruler for saying “haitch”, to people being taken off planes for speaking Arabic on their phones, to people being beaten up in the street for conversing in a community language.

The licence to feel disgust or hate towards a way of speaking, and an entitlement to punish that way of speaking, is easily transferred from quibbles over pronunciation all the way to the suppression of entire languages. Someone who says that haitch-sayers should be silenced or sanctioned is using the same form of irrational and intolerant reasoning that has led to minority languages, and their associated social identities, going into hiding.

Indigenous children in colonial nations like Australia and Canada have suffered everything from shame to corporal punishment for speaking their native language in schools, boarding houses, and public places. Suppression of minority languages is driven by passions that are both ill-informed and brutal. This suppression continues across the world today, wherever any of the world’s 6,000 or so non-official languages are spoken.

If given a choice, most people will prefer to avoid shame or punishment, and so if a person’s language is fair game, they will naturally avoid using it altogether, choosing instead to blend in. A sure result is a fatal break in the transmission of the language to subsequent generations, as has happened in the history of many Australian Indigenous languages.

Peeves about the details of language are everyday occurrences, and they may appear to be harmless. But they reflect a sinister combination of superficial evaluation, emotive judgment, and tribal prejudice. As such, language attitudes are among the enemies of reason and progress.

So, to borrow from Voltaire: You may disapprove of my saying “haitch”, but you should defend to the death my right to say it.

Image: There is no conclusive evidence linking ‘haitch’ to an Irish Catholic education. as is widely believed. CREDIT:ERIN JONASSON

Originally published on The Sydney Morning Herald

  • film
    Posted at 12:40h, 14 November


    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a couple of unrelated information, nevertheless actually really worth taking a search, whoa did one particular find out about Mid East has got more problerms also […]

  • leavers t-shirts.
    Posted at 14:56h, 14 November

    leavers t-shirts.

    […]one of our guests not too long ago proposed the following website[…]

  • mitrade lua dao
    Posted at 15:15h, 14 November


    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  • canada pharmacist
    Posted at 13:16h, 15 November

    canada pharmacist

    […]although websites we backlink to beneath are considerably not related to ours, we really feel they’re in fact really worth a go as a result of, so have a look[…]

  • Jewelry design
    Posted at 15:17h, 15 November

    Jewelry design

    […]just beneath, are numerous absolutely not associated websites to ours, on the other hand, they may be certainly worth going over[…]

  • gravar ligação iphone
    Posted at 06:50h, 16 November


    […]please check out the web sites we comply with, which includes this one, because it represents our picks in the web[…]

  • apps for pc download
    Posted at 14:47h, 16 November

    apps for pc download

    […]always a significant fan of linking to bloggers that I like but don’t get lots of link really like from[…]

  • Relevant
    Posted at 16:33h, 16 November


    […]please take a look at the web-sites we comply with, like this one, as it represents our picks in the web[…]

  • bitcoin wallet
    Posted at 11:00h, 17 November

    bitcoin wallet

    […]check below, are some completely unrelated web sites to ours, on the other hand, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  • pubg hileleri
    Posted at 14:03h, 17 November

    pubg hileleri

    […]check beneath, are some absolutely unrelated internet sites to ours, however, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  • generic viagra uk
    Posted at 23:44h, 17 November

    viagra boots london

    fedeltry healthcare viagra

    Posted at 02:54h, 18 November


    […]Here is a good Blog You may Find Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  • pharmacy canada pharmacy
    Posted at 10:07h, 19 November


    […]below you will come across the link to some websites that we consider you must visit[…]

  • Best High Graphic Games under 1 GB
    Posted at 15:53h, 19 November

    Best High Graphic Games under 1 GB

    […]just beneath, are quite a few absolutely not related web-sites to ours, even so, they’re certainly really worth going over[…]

  • 메리트카지노 사이트
    Posted at 16:00h, 19 November


    […]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I adore but really don’t get a lot of link really like from[…]

  • Fancy Text Generator
    Posted at 11:00h, 20 November

    Fancy Text Generator

    […]Here is an excellent Blog You may Obtain Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

    Posted at 11:35h, 20 November


    […]one of our visitors just lately proposed the following website[…]

  • xe88 jackpot
    Posted at 18:31h, 20 November


    […]The info mentioned inside the report are some of the top readily available […]

  • generic viagra walgreens
    Posted at 20:32h, 20 November

    viagra for sale in south africa

    viagra insurance coverage

  • oh
    Posted at 09:14h, 21 November


    […]just beneath, are quite a few entirely not connected web-sites to ours, having said that, they’re surely worth going over[…]

  • btc canada
    Posted at 12:04h, 21 November

    btc canada

    […]we came across a cool website that you simply may well enjoy. Take a search for those who want[…]

  • natural skin care products
    Posted at 19:30h, 21 November


    […]just beneath, are quite a few completely not connected web sites to ours, on the other hand, they are surely really worth going over[…]

  • learn more (800) 901-0041
    Posted at 13:45h, 22 November

    learn more (800) 901-0041

    […]we prefer to honor quite a few other world-wide-web web pages on the net, even though they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Underneath are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  • top ed pills
    Posted at 10:57h, 23 November

    top ed pills

    […]Here is a superb Weblog You might Find Interesting that we Encourage You[…]

  • Buy Morphine pills online
    Posted at 14:15h, 23 November

    Buy Morphine pills online

    […]here are some hyperlinks to sites that we link to since we believe they’re really worth visiting[…]

  • 메리트카지노 주소
    Posted at 19:11h, 23 November


    […]usually posts some really interesting stuff like this. If you are new to this site[…]

  • marmoset monkey
    Posted at 04:13h, 24 November

    marmoset monkey

    […]usually posts some very exciting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[…]

  • umbrella cockatoo
    Posted at 08:46h, 24 November

    umbrella cockatoo

    […]always a significant fan of linking to bloggers that I adore but really don’t get lots of link appreciate from[…]

  • savannah cats
    Posted at 09:13h, 24 November

    savannah cats

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated data, nonetheless seriously really worth taking a search, whoa did one study about Mid East has got extra problerms too […]

  • toucan for sale
    Posted at 15:58h, 24 November

    toucan for sale

    […]Here is a good Weblog You may Locate Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  • hyacinth macaw for sale
    Posted at 19:38h, 24 November

    hyacinth macaw for sale

    […]one of our guests a short while ago encouraged the following website[…]

  • betül çakmak
    Posted at 02:01h, 25 November

    betül çakmak

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  • Buy Percocet online
    Posted at 12:40h, 26 November

    Buy Percocet online

    […]Here is a superb Blog You might Discover Fascinating that we Encourage You[…]

  • cialis bayer
    Posted at 00:18h, 27 November

    how long before cialis kicks in

    cialis packaging

  • proven pills reviews
    Posted at 07:14h, 27 November


    […]that is the finish of this report. Right here you’ll find some web-sites that we consider you’ll value, just click the links over[…]

    Posted at 10:47h, 28 November


    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a few unrelated data, nonetheless truly really worth taking a look, whoa did a single master about Mid East has got far more problerms at the same time […]

    Posted at 14:28h, 28 November


    […]Here are some of the web sites we advise for our visitors[…]

  • in the usa
    Posted at 00:36h, 29 November

    in the usa

    […]the time to read or go to the subject material or websites we have linked to beneath the[…]

  • viagra online cyprus
    Posted at 11:17h, 29 November

    boots ireland viagra

    money order viagra

  • Marijuana for sale
    Posted at 11:30h, 30 November

    Marijuana for sale

    […]usually posts some really interesting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[…]

  • extremely fast weight loss methods
    Posted at 18:37h, 30 November


    […]check beneath, are some totally unrelated internet sites to ours, even so, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[…]