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

  • viagra cost
    Posted at 15:11h, 14 October

    cheap viagra

    generic viagra cost

  • çeşme sakız feribot
    Posted at 23:31h, 14 October

    çeşme sakız feribot

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

  • thy uçak bileti
    Posted at 23:03h, 15 October

    thy uçak bileti

    […]The info talked about in the post are some of the very best readily available […]

  • hat macca
    Posted at 11:17h, 17 October

    hat macca

    […]the time to study or stop by the content or web pages we have linked to below the[…]

  • mua hat macca o tphcm
    Posted at 00:14h, 18 October

    mua hat macca o tphcm

    […]The data mentioned within the article are some of the best readily available […]

  • hat macca
    Posted at 10:02h, 18 October

    hat macca

    […]here are some links to websites that we link to for the reason that we consider they may be worth visiting[…]

  • ترفند بازی انفجار
    Posted at 10:58h, 18 October

    ترفند بازی انفجار

    […]we prefer to honor lots of other internet sites around the internet, even though they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  • emma-shop
    Posted at 09:16h, 19 October


    […]Here is an excellent Blog You might Come across Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  • viagra brand from india
    Posted at 21:05h, 19 October

    generic viagra whit mastercard

    goodrx viagra

  • best sex toys for beginners
    Posted at 23:54h, 19 October

    best sex toys for beginners

    […]we came across a cool site that you simply may well appreciate. Take a look when you want[…]

  • anonymous panos germanos
    Posted at 23:11h, 21 October

    anonymous panos germanos

    […]The info talked about inside the article are some of the top available […]

    Posted at 01:13h, 22 October

    […]although internet sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not associated to ours, we feel they’re essentially really worth a go as a result of, so have a look[…]

  • go panos germanos
    Posted at 10:13h, 22 October

    go panos germanos

    […]that may be the finish of this article. Right here you’ll uncover some websites that we believe you will enjoy, just click the hyperlinks over[…]

  • buy cialis in toronto
    Posted at 19:55h, 22 October

    cialis sale online

    cialis benefits

  • iPhone
    Posted at 09:18h, 23 October


    […]we came across a cool site that you simply may well enjoy. Take a search should you want[…]

  • tabaksvervanger
    Posted at 09:32h, 23 October


    […]below you’ll obtain the link to some internet sites that we assume you ought to visit[…]

  • wasmachine reparatie
    Posted at 13:40h, 23 October

    wasmachine reparatie

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

  • mana mana muppets
    Posted at 10:12h, 24 October

    mana mana muppets

    […]always a massive fan of linking to bloggers that I enjoy but do not get lots of link appreciate from[…]

  • vape shops near me
    Posted at 10:15h, 24 October

    vape shops near me

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine several unrelated data, nevertheless really really worth taking a search, whoa did a single understand about Mid East has got a lot more problerms too […]

  • Damiana
    Posted at 12:58h, 24 October


    […]here are some hyperlinks to web pages that we link to mainly because we feel they may be really worth visiting[…]

  • buy weed online
    Posted at 14:21h, 24 October

    buy weed online

    […]Every once in a although we select blogs that we read. Listed beneath would be the most recent web pages that we pick […]

  • viagra with no pre
    Posted at 20:04h, 24 October

    buy viagra without script

    brand viagra no prescription

  • solar stand in pakistan for 175 watt
    Posted at 12:34h, 25 October

    solar stand in pakistan for 175 watt

    […]the time to read or pay a visit to the material or websites we have linked to below the[…]

    Posted at 15:54h, 25 October

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

  • Gerüstbau
    Posted at 00:37h, 26 October


    […]we like to honor quite a few other world wide web web-sites around the net, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  • Buy hand raised Aussies
    Posted at 12:45h, 26 October

    Buy hand raised Aussies

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you could appreciate. Take a search if you want[…]

  • yout'
    Posted at 13:17h, 26 October


    […]check below, are some absolutely unrelated websites to ours, even so, they may be most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  • generic cialis reviews
    Posted at 15:50h, 26 October

    generic cialis buy

    cialis tadalafil lilly

  • Bodrum havuz kimyasallarý
    Posted at 23:50h, 26 October

    Bodrum havuz kimyasallarý

    […]please go to the web sites we comply with, such as this 1, because it represents our picks through the web[…]

  • havuz malzemeleri
    Posted at 00:45h, 27 October

    havuz malzemeleri

    […]please pay a visit to the internet sites we stick to, including this a single, as it represents our picks in the web[…]

  • mobilya
    Posted at 07:47h, 27 October


    […]below you will uncover the link to some websites that we consider it is best to visit[…]

  • havuz malzemeleri
    Posted at 10:14h, 27 October

    havuz malzemeleri

    […]below you’ll uncover the link to some sites that we think you need to visit[…]

    Posted at 14:42h, 27 October


    […]that would be the finish of this report. Here you will obtain some sites that we think you’ll value, just click the links over[…]

    Posted at 15:58h, 27 October

    […]The facts mentioned within the post are a few of the best out there […]

  • kamado grill 2021
    Posted at 19:23h, 27 October

    kamado grill 2021

    […]here are some links to web-sites that we link to simply because we believe they’re really worth visiting[…]

    Posted at 23:58h, 27 October

    […]The data talked about within the post are some of the ideal offered […]

  • Pomsky Puppies For Sale
    Posted at 04:54h, 28 October

    Pomsky Puppies For Sale

    […]Here is an excellent Weblog You might Locate Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  • Beretta 92x for sale
    Posted at 06:12h, 28 October

    Beretta 92x for sale

    […]here are some hyperlinks to sites that we link to for the reason that we believe they’re worth visiting[…]

  • 308 sniper rifle for sale
    Posted at 08:33h, 28 October

    308 sniper rifle for sale

    […]the time to study or take a look at the subject material or web pages we have linked to below the[…]

  • Assault rifles for sale
    Posted at 11:40h, 28 October

    Assault rifles for sale

    […]Here are several of the web pages we advise for our visitors[…]

  • Buy heroin online
    Posted at 16:24h, 28 October

    Buy heroin online

    […]just beneath, are numerous entirely not associated web-sites to ours, on the other hand, they may be surely really worth going over[…]

  • Magic Mushrooms
    Posted at 19:12h, 28 October

    Magic Mushrooms

    […]here are some hyperlinks to websites that we link to because we consider they’re really worth visiting[…]

  • cialis mail order
    Posted at 19:43h, 28 October

    generic cialis professional

    canadian pharmacy cialis

  • Computer reparatur stäfa
    Posted at 23:01h, 28 October

    Computer reparatur stäfa

    […]please pay a visit to the internet sites we stick to, such as this one, because it represents our picks from the web[…]

    Posted at 23:59h, 28 October


    […]just beneath, are several entirely not associated web sites to ours, nevertheless, they’re surely really worth going over[…]

    Posted at 01:36h, 29 October


    […]very couple of web sites that take place to be comprehensive below, from our point of view are undoubtedly properly really worth checking out[…]

    Posted at 11:19h, 29 October


    […]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[…]

  • pitbull puppies for sale in sc
    Posted at 03:54h, 30 October

    pitbull puppies for sale in sc

    […]Every the moment inside a though we opt for blogs that we read. Listed below are the most up-to-date web pages that we decide on […]

  • where to buy viagra in brisbane
    Posted at 19:15h, 30 October

    buy chinese viagra

    viagra for sale on ebay

  • Blackberry Kush
    Posted at 13:47h, 01 November

    Blackberry Kush

    […]Here is a superb Weblog You may Uncover Exciting that we Encourage You[…]