Now, after after a close shave with certain other members on another topic, I wonder if I dare bring up the pronunciation of the letter h.
Growing up as I did in the UK more than half a century ago, the pronunciation of the letter h was commonly and universally ( my universe at least ) pronounced ‘aitch’. I wasn’t aware of any other way to pronounce this letter until I had occasion to speak with some Irishmen employed digging the roads. Surprisingly to me at the time, they pronounced the letter with a strong h in front of the aitch sound to form ‘haitch’. Not thinking too much about it, I continued with my life until meeting a family born in the UK but descended from Irish stock who also used this form of pronunciation. Apart from these few people, I rarely, if ever came across others who used the ‘haitch’ form.
Fast forward some years to life in Australia. Within days of reaching these balmy shores, I encountered the self same ‘haitch’ pronunciation and subsequently heard it regularly from time to time. Not all Australians pronounce the letter this way, and in fact the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) use newsreaders and others who pronounce the letter as in the UK. It occurred to me that a large Irish contingent emigrated to Australia in the nineteenth century, presumably bringing their ‘haitch’ pronunciation with them.
There are two things that puzzle me here. America also had its fair share of Irish immigrants, yet I am not aware of this pronunciation over there. Admittedly, I have not lived there but these days it is practically unavoidable to escape American English and their forms of pronunciation (am I on thin ice again?). I’ve also met Americans of Irish origin who definitely don’t use the ‘haitch’ pronunciation. Also, I’ve met Irish folk of more exalted birth who use the ‘aitch’ form. Can it be that ‘haitch’ comes from Irish people who were not so fortunate in terms of education, and it was precisely these people who left their homeland for pastures greener, thus causing a more widespread use of the form. This, however, still doesn’t answer the question why Americans of Irish origin apparently don’t use it.